Member for Cootamundra Katrina Hodgkinson thinks the mothballed Cowra Lines should receive government funding so they can be re-opened.
Hodgkinson, according to a report from the ABC, believes the Cowra Lines – which were progressively closed between 2007 and 2009 due to safety concerns and low freight volumes – should receive a share of the government’s planned Rebuilding NSW funding.
The state government plans to invest $20 billion into infrastructure through the plan, which was announced in June 2014.
So far the state plans to reserve $7 billion for the Sydney Rapid Transit project, to fully fund a second harbour rail crossing.
$1.1 billion is to be set aside for WestConnex and the Western Harbour Tunnel, and $2 billion is designated for schools and hospitals. Around $4.1 billion has been earmarked for regional transport.
“If it’s going to cost $40 million to get those rail lines up and running again … for that funding to come out of that Rebuilding account,” Hodgkinson was quoted by the ABC, “I think that’s a perfectly reasonable request.
“I think that the door is not closed.”
NSW minister for roads, maritime and freight Duncan Gay said in May that a government search had yielded no private sector tenderer who would renew the Cowra Lines on the government’s desired terms.
“The tender process revealed there was too much uncertainty in the ability of the tenderers to return the lines to full service and run a commercially sustainable business without significant taxpayer support,” Gay said.
But Hodgkinson thinks the Lines are worthy of such support.
“I know [Minister Gay] is still very interested in the Cowra Lines and I think it’s time for the state government to contribute something towards that,” the Cootamundra MP said.
Indeed, Gay said in May the government had not given up on the Cowra Lines, and actually suggested at the time that funding from Rebuilding NSW would be considered for the project down the road.
“As part of our Rebuilding NSW Plan, the Government has committed $400 million to the Fixing Country Rail program,” Gay said, “while $153 million will be invested over the next three years to continue fast tracking repairs and upgrades to the 996km of grain lines across NSW.”
The Cowra Lines are 200km of non-operational rail lines between Blayney and Harden, and Koorawatha and Greenethorpe.
Transport for NSW has estimated the renewal of the lines would cost roughly $30 million, and then $2 million would be needed each year to keep them in a serviceable condition.