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THE recently released Infrastructure NSW report has failed to assess adequately the benefits of more public transport across the state, instead focusing on 'roads, roads, roads', said Trains On Our Tracks (TOOT) President Karin Kolbe.
The Northern Star spoke to Ms Kolbe, a campaigner for the use of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail line for a localised 'light rail' service, about the implications of the report on TOOT's transport vision.
"Their focus is trying to justify roads," said Ms Kolbe. "It seems that they've talked themselves out of any rail full stop, but they don't actually say why," said Ms Kolbe.
While the report acknowledged the ongoing assessment of the Casino-Murwillumbah line by Transport NSW, in a broader statement it said: "the case for investment to reopen historic railway lines to passenger traffic will need careful assessment on a case by case basis and is unlikely to be viable in most cases."
Ms Kolbe said the report ignored 'environmental and social needs of the population', using the low levels of rail and bus usage in the regional NSW as an argument for more roads, in areas where appropriate public transport was often not available.
She also emphasized there was 'fundamental difference' between regional long-distance rail lines and the kind of localised light rail system being proposed by TOOT on the Casino-Murwillumbah line.
Ballina MP Don Page said the report showed Infrastructure NSW were 'clearly reserving their position' on the line until the current feasibility study by was completed.
"Infrastructure NSW is independent of government, and the government as a whole will respond to the Infrastructure NSW report by the end of the year, and by that time we will have the rail study for Casino-Murwillumbah," said Mr Page.
The feasibility study - investigating engineering issues, costs and benefits associated with reopening the rail line - is expected to be completed before Christmas.
Engineers have been assessing the condition of each of the 58 bridges and nine tunnels along the route, as well as looking at potential social and environmental benefits, including further economic integration with South-East Queensland.
This article first appeared on www.northernstar.com.au
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