Working party on a slow line
By ED SOUTHORN
A WORKING party of regional MPs and mayors investigating the mothballed Murwillumbah to Casino rail line has made "pretty slow" progress and does not expect Federal Government support to encourage local rail freight services.
Nationals Ballina MP Don Page yesterday said the working party had been briefed by transport consultants about possible Federal Government financial assistance under the Auslink program to support rail freighting.
But Mr Page, a member of the working party, said the consultants had advised there would be insufficient freight volumes on the Murwillumbah to Casino line to make freight services viable.
Former transport minister John Watkins had suggested during a visit in April that freight services might make the line sufficiently viable to reintroduce passenger services.
Mr Page said he was more hopeful privately-operated commuter trains might run on the line, provided the State Government funded bridge and track maintenance.
He said a working party meeting at Lismore next month would consider the private train option.
Mr Page said the working party had been briefed by Queensland Government transport officials about the approved extension of the Gold Coast train line to Gold Coast Airport and the possibility of a future rail connection across the border to Murwillumbah.
He also was hopeful the local line's future could be secured before the 2007 State election, but if the coalition won government it would upgrade tracks and bridges as soon as possible to enable train services to recommence.
Northern Rivers Trains for the Future spokeswoman Karin Kolbe said her group had not been invited to join the working party, which "meets in secret and has no public agenda or minutes".