Geoff Provist and Melinda Pavey at the M’Bah railway station.
Geoff Provist and Melinda Pavey at the M’Bah railway station. John Gass

Gloves off over $1m rail study

AN election promise that a NSW Coalition government would spend a million dollars on a study to bring trains from Casino to Cool- angatta yesterday reignited debate over the closed Murwillumbah rail line.

National Party MP for Tweed Geoff Provest put the issue back on the election track, saying the study would look at the costs of reinstating trains on the Casino-to-Murwillumbah line and also possible routes for its extension to Coolangatta and the Gold Coast Airport.

In 2007 Mr Provest's election advertisements promised that a Coalition government would commit $100 million for a commuter rail service between Casino and Murwillumbah, provide a minimum of six services a day and immediately start the planning for an extension from Murwillumbah to the Gold Coast.

The Labor government axed train services on the line in 2004, but its attempt to pull up the track and use the corridor for walking and bicycle trails was later thwarted by the NSW Upper House.

“We have committed $1 million to do a planning study for the track from Casino to the airport,” said Mr Provest.

“The first part of it is so we can clearly price fixing up the track from Casino to Murwillumbah. The other part is to identify routes to the airport.”

Mr Provest said routes across to the Tweed Coast to serve areas such as the planned Kings Forest township could be considered, adding that Queensland planned to connect the airport with heavy rail from Brisbane, and with light rail from Southport.

Mr Provest's latest promise was quickly criticised by Tweed Labor candidate Reece Byrnes, Lismore Labor candidate Andrew Moy and Tweed Greens Party candidate Andrea Vickers.

Mr Byrnes said Mr Provest's support for a feasibility study was “another example of his failure to deliver for the Tweed”, because in 2007 he “promised $100 million to bring back the train.”

“Geoff must explain why Barry O'Farrell has committed millions to deliver more trains, buses, ferry services, and road upgrades for Sydney and yet all Geoff can get here is support for a bureaucratic discussion paper,” he said.

Andrew Moy, the Labor candidate for the seat of Lismore, which includes Murwillumbah, ridiculed the latest promise, saying reopening the line could cost more than $300 million which was better spent on roads and hospitals.

Mr Moy said reopen- ing the line would cost up to $250 million to repair the track and replace 159 timber bridges over two years, then more money to upgrade communications.

“I'd rather see an integrated transport system and an upgrade of roads... and the money spent on hospitals.”

Ms Vickers said it was a “significant downgrade” of Mr Provest's 2007 promise now that he looked like being in government.

Ms Vickers pointed out that Mr Provest in the 2007 election vowed “to introduce six light-rail services a day and to start planning the extension from Murwillumbah to the Gold Coast”.

“I understand he's been in opposition, but now he's faced with actually implementing that promise it's gone to a one million dollar feasibility study,” she said.

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