Rail gauge problemsState differences could halt M?bah-Qld extension

By ROXANNE MILLAR

A CALL to connect a planned expansion of the Robina rail line to Coolangatta with Murwillumbah's defunct railway may not be viable, a spokesperson for NSW Transport Minister Michael Costa has warned.

A discrepancy between the track width of the two State's lines may thwart any efforts to connect them if the Murwillumbah line was restored.

The spokesperson was commenting after Queensland Transport Minister Paul Lucas announced that planning for the extension of the rail line to Coolangatta would begin shortly.

Its expansion would be part of an infrastructure plan by Queensland Premier Peter Beattie to help the state's south-east cope with its burgeoning population.

Following the announcement, NSW Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon called on Mr Costa to reopen the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail line and extend it to the border.

"The plan gives a new lease of life to the Casino-to-Murwillumbah line, which could now link up with the Gold Coast network.

"It would deliver huge economic and social benefits to the NSW north coast," she said.

"The Greens call on Mr Costa to seek an urgent meeting with the Queensland transport minister to start working on a new crossborder plan for the North Coast rail."

However, a spokesperson for Mr Costa said a working party established in May by the Minister was already looking at the rail corridor's future.

"Peter Beattie's announcement does not resolve the issue around the funding of the rail line," the spokesperson said.

"There are also issues of how to link the two and what type of train would be used."

Vice president of the Northern Rivers Trains for the Future body and member of the local government rail taskforce Neale Battersby said the track widths differed after talks about a rail network between states broke down in the 1800s.

He said finding a solution just required some forward planning and an open mind by both state governments.

"Forget about the finances and look at the fact there are different gauge sizes. You can run a line from Murwillumbah to Coolangatta. If after Coolangatta you leave space for a third rail line that will be the NSW size," he said.

"The trouble comes at Robina because Queensland rail never catered for a third rail line. But you could have an interchange at Robina instead."



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