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Pressure is mounting on the State Government to fix the Hills public transport and traffic woes.
The Adelaide Hills Council has added its voice to a community-wide call for passenger rail, with elected members backing a motion by Cr Leith Mudge to request a comprehensive study into suitable rapid transit services.
Options may include an O-Bahn line and should, as a minimum, explore stops at Stirling and Mount Barker, with potential connection to Murray Bridge and Strathalbyn.
The formal request will be made by mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom to Transport Minister Corey Wingard and follows his recent statement that passenger rail was “not financially viable”.
Mr Mudge said exploring future transport options was paramount with Mount Barker poised to become the second largest city in SA by 2036.
Mount Barker’s population was expected to grow to more than 55,000 people, a 68 per cent jump since 2016.
“In recent months we have seen the impact of this growth on the increasingly congested Freeway,” he said.
“Massive traffic jams have been caused by accidents and road works, resulting in delays of up to two hours with the congestion spilling into the backstreets of Stirling, Aldgate and Bridgewater.
“A return of passenger railway to the Adelaide Hills servicing communities along the Freeway corridor would bypass the congestion issues on the Freeway and provide an attractive alternative to private car transport for Hills dwellers and visitors.”
Cr Mudge also knocked the state government’s position on passenger rail not being financially viable.
He said recent projects highlighted that both state and federal money was available for projects deemed important enough.
The Adelaide Hills Council is backing a community-wide call for passenger rail between the city and Mount Barker.
“In the last two years, state and federal governments have committed almost $300 million in current and future projects to address problems on the freeway,” Cr Mudge said.
These include $14.2 million for the recently completed managed motorway between Stirling and Crafers, $28 million for the current resealing project between the Toll Gate and Crafers,
$48 million to upgrade the Heysen Tunnels – committed in the recent federal budget, and $200 million in last year’s budget to solve traffic problems around Hahndorf associated with the freeway.
“So imagine if they took some of that money, or even just … allocated an equivalent amount to public transport … we could get a new rail.”
While the state government remains firm on its stance on passenger rail, Kavel MP Dan Cregan has vowed to go against his own party’s sentiment.
“I will continue to advocate for rail as part of the transport mix in the Hills,” he said.
“I fully appreciate the cost and engineering challenges involved in such a project – those challenges are real for a small state like South Australia with a narrow tax base.
“I understand the minister’s position, but I think he also knows I am a passionate rail supporter and that I wear my tag as a train nut with pride.”
The Adelaide Hills News revealed last week passenger rail was off the table as the state government focused its attention on heavy-vehicle bypasses.
Mr Wingard argued passenger rail was not financially viable and the excessive costs would not be the best use of limited taxpayer dollars, compared with other infrastructure priorities.
This article first appeared on www.adelaidenow.com.au
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