Casino to Murwillumbah rail line must be reinstated
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the closure of the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line. In 2004, the community of northern NSW watched on in outrage as the former Labor government closed the line for no good reason.
Since that time, an active residents’ campaign has kept the pressure on the state government to reintroduce services on the line. In 2006, then-Deputy Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell promised that a NSW Coalition government would immediately move to reopen this vital piece of public transport infrastructure.
Instead, when the Coalition was eventually elected in 2011 and Mr O’Farrell became Premier, the government initiated a feasibility study into the line’s potential reopening. It reported in April last year that more than $900 million was required to carry out work ensuring the line complied with maintenance and safety standards, making it economically unviable.
For a 130-kilometre line, this averages out to over $6.5 million per kilometre. Unfortunately, regional rail projects in NSW suffer from such inflated cost estimates. Comparatively, in Victoria similar neglected lines have been reinstated for costs of $124,000 to $265,000 per kilometre.
Moreover, this line does not have to be reinstated to XPT standards. There are other options such as Diesel Multiple Units (DMU) which have lower system and construction costs, have flexibility in matching passenger capacity to demand and trains can be split and joined en route.
It’s no secret that the O’Farrell government would prefer to build wasteful urban motorways than active and integrated rail projects throughout the state. Overestimating the cost of bringing existing infrastructure back into service is a convenient way of justifying expenditure on projects such as the WestConnex toll road in Sydney, which is wasteful and polluting, and will not solve traffic congestion problems.
Community surveys carried out since 2004 have consistently found that locals would use a reinstated Casino-Murwillumbah line. Moreover, population growth and tourism opportunities in northern NSW beg the question of why there is no rail line servicing this part of our state.
The Greens will continue to pressure the government to get on board and reintroduce this critical public transport service.