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Station tart up ignores branch lines crisis, farmers say

<p>The New South Wales Farmers’s Association believes a State Government program to renovate country rail stations, is a slap in the face for those awaiting commitment to the dilapidated branch line network.</p> <p>It said NSW transport minister John Watkins needed to "look at the real issues facing country rail lines, rather than glossing them over with a coat of paint".</p> <p>Association grains committee spokesman Angus Macneil said the $1.7m country stations renovation program was insulting to rural communities that had lost rail lines in recent months.</p> <p>Farmers recently turned out to protest the closure of the Binnaway-Gwabegar line.</p> <p>"The closure of the local rail line has placed a dark cloud over forecasts of a bumper harvest, with freight costs set to increase by up to $10 a tonne and higher council rates to cater for more road maintenance," Mr Macneil said.</p> <p>Hundreds of tonnes of grain will now be diverted to road in the Baradine area.</p> <p>Although the State Government has committed $58m funding for 11 of the 15 branch lines, the association is worried that when that runs out in 2007 all 15 lines will be forced to close.</p> <br />