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Five years after an almost 40-kilometre section of new train track were announced in the NSW Riverina for the inland rail project, a 'preferred route' for the line has been announced.
The Illabo to Stockinbingal section of the multi-billion-dollar inland rail project is needed to bypass a winding section of line known as the Bethungra Spiral.
It will mainly be built on undulating farmland used predominately for cropping and grazing.
Illabo landholder Ashley Hermes said the preferred route would traverse his two farms in the area.
"It has to go somewhere, and I accept that the experts have determined that probably the best route is through my properties," he said.
The inland rail alignment map, as of April 2021."It's been a long five years so far and they haven't actually done anything on the ground so I now have some certainty where it is and I can now start making plans for my business."
Ashley Hermes welcomes confirmation of the inland rail route but is unhappy about a lack of transparency.(Supplied: Ashley Hermes
)Mr Hermes said he had been disappointed in the lack of transparency about the project to date and said the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) had not offered any compensation for his cooperation to date.
"I've kept a diary of my time over the years and it's probably up to 300 hours of my time has been dedicated to them so far and they've never volunteered to pay for that time.
"It's going to be a massive upheaval to my business during construction and hereafter."
Benefits outlinedARTC director of planning, communication and stakeholder directions, Rebecca Pickering, said the route was unlikely to change now the preferred alignment had been confirmed.
"We're at the stage now where some of the more major alignment changes we believe would've been done at this point," she said.
"We're getting into a much more refined level of detail. That's not to say it can't change but that would be less likely now or any changes that are made are more minor optimisations when it comes to the route."
Tension on the track[img]https://live-production.wcms.abc-cdn.net.au/8eb17e101b5a97472f1d15839b5f11bf?impolicy=wcms_crop_resize&cropH=1688&cropW=3000&xPos=0&yPos=480&width=862&height=485[/img]
The ABC travelled the 1,700-kilometre inland rail corridor by train, car and foot to hear the hopes, fears and ideas of those whose lives could be affected the most.
Ms Pickering said the assistance of Mr Hermes and others over the last five years was appreciated but there would not be any compensation in the short term.
“We don’t have a process where we compensate for that in a direct sense,” she said.
“But when we get to negotiations for compensation with landowners there are some aspects of compensation that are intended to cover particular costs that are incurred, legal fees and other components of the impacts on landowners,” she said.
In an online update released this week, the ARTC said the alignment had been determined following an extensive design review, consultation with landowners and key stakeholders and following additional ecological and cultural heritage investigations.
The ARTC said the benefits of the route included a reduced impact on vegetation, reduced earthworks and minimises impacts on local waterways.
It will be holding community information sessions in affected communities over the next fortnight.
In the online update, the ARTC said the environmental impact statement for the project would be lodged soon with the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, with a public exhibition period expected late this year.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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