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Your correspondent Brad Hinton promotes a number of misconceptions about Canberra-Eden rail (Letters, February 27). Mr Hinton focuses on passenger projections, however the primary rationale for the railway is not passengers but freight – to connect the Port of Eden to the national rail network, and by so doing, relieve pressure on existing congested ports, as well as their feeder transport corridors.
Alternative proposals to expand existing major ports (Kembla, Botany or Newcastle) would cost far more than the $3 billion (upper-limit) preliminary estimate for Canberra-Eden, and deliver no ancillary benefits of congestion reduction, provision of affordable housing or decentralisation.
The proposed passenger service relies on a value capture strategy, predicated on affordable housing developments within easy commuting distance from Canberra (Michelago, Bredbo and Cooma, perhaps also Nimmitabel). The sale of development sites within existing township boundaries would offset a significant proportion of the up-front capital costs of the railway, and help drive regional development goals.
I agree that the main priority for fast passenger rail in NSW should be Canberra-Sydney, but that has proved a much more challenging and highly politicised proposition, with more severe terrain, dense existing development, and a fully utilised rail and road corridor to contend with. Canberra-Eden could be completed at far lower difficulty, and would be a compelling proof-of-concept for medium-speed mixed-use rail in regional Australia. Considering the potential benefits to our region, the $1 million budget for the proposed feasibility study is in no way outlandish.
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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