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THE bid for a public transit light rail service for Hobart’s Northern Suburbs has been given a boost after being listed by the State Government as a priority project.
Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the Hobart light rail project, the third stage of the Tasmanian Irrigation Project and energy projects had been added to the state’s top infrastructure aspirations as part of the latest referral to the Infrastructure Australia Priority list.
“These priorities meet Tasmania’s future infrastructure needs across energy, irrigation and public transport and have the potential to create thousands of jobs,” he said.
Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group President Ben Johnston welcomed the listing. Also on the list are the Bridgewater Bridge, Burnie to Hobart freight corridor, stage three of the irrigation rollout, sewerage infrastructure upgrades and the UTAS STEM Centre.
“Importantly, all of these projects support Tasmania’s comparative advantages such as our capacity for additional renewable energy, our high rainfall, and the Hodgman Government’s decision to protect the rail corridor from Hobart to Granton for future light rail opportunities,’’ Mr Hidding said.
“I recently toured the rail line with the federal Minister for Cities Angus Taylor and spoke very positively about the potential for light rail to be further progressed as part of the Hobart City Deal, and this referral will add further weight behind the case to progress this.”
Mr Johnston said his only concern was there was no real time frame about when the actual business case will be put to Infrastructure Australia.
“We’re still worried [the project] might not be eligible for a City Deal if there’s not a clear business case,” Mr Johnston said.
Mr Johnston said the State Government and the Hobart and Glenorchy city councils had all prepared documents in recent years that could be drawn on to produce a business case.
“The State Government should take a lead and consolidate those documents in to one definitive business case,” he said.
But Labor’s Infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad said the Liberals had waited four years to take action on key infrastructure projects.
“Rene Hidding’s track record at delivering significant infrastructure projects for Tasmania is appalling,” Dr Broad said.
“The projects the Government has now ‘identified’ as priorities should have been their focus at the start of the term in government, not the end.
“Today’s announcement from the Minister is half-baked and smacks of desperation.
“The Liberals ridiculed Labor’s policy to advance passenger rail in Hobart, now they’ve copied it.”
Tasmanian Transport Museum’s Rod Prince, left, and Dave Batchelor announce a new heritage passenger rail experience for Hobart. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNESteam rail to go aheadPASSENGER trains will roll once more from Glenorchy to Berriedale after a rail heritage group won the right to run a tourist rail service on the line.
Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding announced the Tasmanian Transport Museum Society would have access to the idle tracks.
The TTMS will return rail car and steam train journeys to the Hobart suburbs almost 40 years after they stopped.
Mr Hidding said a “corridor notice” would be tabled in Parliament that would allow TTMS access to the line.
“The TTMS will still be required to seek all necessary approvals from the National Rail Safety Regulator, and they are working on a range of operational matters including the implementation of level crossing controls,” he said.
“Importantly, the heritage passenger rail experience will not preclude any future light rail operation on the corridor.”
TTMS president Rod Prince said he expected the experience would be popular.
“Over a normal year 3000 to 4000 people have taken train rides,” Mr Prince said.
“But all we offer at the moment is 450m which after a while becomes a little bit tame.
“With the expansion of services to, say, Chigwell giving people a 9km return journey, I think it will be booked out every time.
“We’ve been looking at that track for 3½ years. We knew it was in good condition, and we approached the minister and he was all for it.”
This article first appeared on www.themercury.com.au
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