Riverina rail advocates have welcomed news the NSW Government has completed the long-awaited rail upgrade between Junee and Griffith.
On Wednesday, 3 August, NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway announced 174 kilometres of rail between Junee and Griffith has now been replaced.
“The Junee to Griffith upgrade allows heavier freight trains to use the track, and adds capacity for those trains to travel at higher speeds, making journeys more efficient for freight trains transporting goods and produce from farms in the Riverina across the state, Australia and overseas,” he said.
Former Leeton mayor Paul Maytom, who pushed strongly for the upgrade and attended the initial NSW Government announcement on the project in 2018, was delighted at the outcome.
“We have advocated for this upgrade for such a long time, it’s so good to see it come to fruition.
“This upgrade will greatly benefit farming communities around Leeton, Griffith and across the whole Riverina, it will help move our produce a lot more efficiently.
“This will set us up well for the next 30 to 40 years … our road network is not going to be able to cope with the expected increases in freight distribution … the future is very much in rail.”
Mr Maytom sees it as evidence local government advocacy can make a difference.
“There are a lot of competing priorities for government money, you’ve got to be out there advocating to get the investment for your community.”
“I thank the NSW Government for what they have delivered.”
Longtime Narrandera rail advocate and former councillor Wes Hall said that news was “a positive for our region and we welcome all investment.”
Mr Hall noted, though, he wants the NSW Government to invest in re-opening a more direct route to Melbourne via Jerilderie and Tocumwal, so produce can be transported as quickly as possible.
Minister Farraway also announced a $11.7 million project to extend the Coolaman siding is underway to further reduce rail bottlenecks on the line.
The project, also funded under the NSW Government’s Fixing Country Rail Program, will help alleviate congestion on the single line track between Junee and Griffith, where currently there are limited opportunities for freight trains to load and unload off the main line.
“It will allow access for modern freight trains up to 1500 metres long to exit the main line, letting passenger and other freight services pass while the train is loading or unloading,” Mr Farraway said.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the Coolamon project would support around 30 jobs during construction.
“The Riverina Murray region makes the largest regional contribution to agricultural production in NSW, accounting for almost 13 per cent of produce across the state,” Ms Cooke said.
“That is why our government has invested wisely to ensure our region’s biggest economic driver can become even more efficient, serving farming communities well into the future.”
Early work is due to start next month and the project is expected to be completed in 2023, weather permitting.