Call for private sector to reopen Cowra Lines

Minister for Roads and Ports Duncan Gay today called for registrations of interest from the private sector to restore, operate and maintain 200 kilometres of rail line known as the ‘The Cowra Lines’.

Gay said there is widespread community support to reopen the disused rail line between Blayney and Demondrille.

The line was closed in 2007 due to high operating costs and low freight volumes.

Gay said the rail line was important in ensuring economic growth adding that council involvement will be essential to make sure the local road network connects efficiently to intermodal terminals located on existing lines, so regional businesses and primary producers can more efficiently move goods to market.

"The Cowra Lines project is an important and innovative pilot that could help pave the way for other parts of the state’s rail and road freight and transport network," Gay said.

Transport for NSW is calling for Registrations of Interest from suitably qualified parties to restore, maintain and operate the railway lanes from Blayney to Demondrille as well as between Koorawatha to Greenthorpe on a commercially sustainable basis under a fixed term licence.

This follows a Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW Government and the Blayney, Cowra, Harden, Weddin and Young Shire Councils signed in July 2013 to investigate how a regulatory and operating model for the lines could be improved.

The Nationals Member for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson, welcomed the initiative to reopen the rail line.

“The reopening of this line will significantly benefit grain farmers and councils allowing the transport of the grain harvest by rail, reducing heavy vehicle traffic on local roads and also boosting tourism opportunities in this region,” she said.

Political stoush over Pacific Highway funding

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay has been accused of misleading the public after a letter was leaked by Anthony Albanese over funding for the Pacific Highway.

In a letter to Albanese in late June, Gay said the Pacific Highway had "received an allocation of nearly $740 million more than requested" from the federal government.

Albanese disclosed the contents of the letter this week after a press release from Gay’s department urged voters to back Tony Abbott in the upcoming election because: "Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese have turned off the funding tap" for the duplication of the highway from Newcastle to the Queensland border.

"True to form the Liberal and National parties have been saying one thing publicly and something completely different in private," Albanese said.

Gay's letter to Albanese says the state government received more money than requested because some funding did not match with "advice on actual project milestones".

The letter said the NSW government would "accept this additional allocation as a prepayment for the program to be drawn on beyond 2013-14".

Expansion of Princes Highway rest area begins

Work has started on the upgrade of Waldron’s Swamp rest area, just north of Moruya.

NSW Roads and Ports Minister Duncan Gay said the upgrade will take six months to complete.

The rest area, located two hours south-east of Canberra, will be able to house four trucks of up to 19 metres in length at any one time.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the project will provide truck drivers who regularly use the Princes Highway with a safe, modern place to pull over and take a break or catch up on their sleep.

“The funding for this upgrade is coming from our Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, the first ever Federal initiative dedicated to addressing the unacceptable lack of safe, modern roadside facilities along the nation’s highways,” said Mr Albanese.

“In total we’re delivering 83 new and refurbished rest stops across NSW, including four on the Princes Highway, complementing our record investment in upgrading key sections of the State’s road network.

“By giving truck drivers more opportunities to get the respite they need, the investment we are making in new and better rest stops will over time make our roads safer for everyone.”

Gay said the expanded rest area will help improve road safety.

Last year in this State, 73 people lost their lives in crashes involving heavy vehicles, with fatigue a factor in many of them.  We must continue to do all we can to prevent similar tragedies in the future – and without a doubt providing new and upgraded rest stops is part of the answer,” he said.


Greater intermodal access in Sydney

Freight operators will soon have greater access to the Chullora Intermodal with the Federal and NSW governments agreeing to fund the first stage of upgrades which will see local roads connecting to the facility to the Hume Highway.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said $345,000 project will target Muir Road between Rockwood Road and Dasea Street as well as Dasea Street to the entrance of the Terminal.

“The package of works will involve resurfacing section of these two roads as well as strengthening their foundations at various points, measures which will allow them to be used by heavier vehicles,” Albanese said.

“The relatively small investment being made here will deliver major long term benefits.  In fact Infrastructures Australia has estimated that the current restrictions on the use of these roads has cost the economy and freight operators some $22 million over the past five years.

“What's more, fixing these local roads connecting major highways to important freight hubs such as the one at Chullora is in line with the recommendations set out in our National Freight Strategy and will help boost national productivity.”

The Federal Government has committed $172,500 to the project, with the NSW Government providing the balance.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the project demonstrates intergovernmental cooperation to address the ‘last mile’ access issue.

“In addition to the Federal Government, this project also involves a partnership with Bankstown Council and I look forward to working with them to get it done,” Gay said.

“We expect work to begin in coming months and be completed before the end of the year.”


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