Transport Hub ‘think tank’

Ed, On Friday last I attended a round table ‘think-tank’, the objective of which was to pool ideas that might progress the development of a Transport Hub for the Clarence Valley. The underlying aim was to stimulate business and thereby reinvigorate employment prospects. There were about a dozen attendees, including the Mayor, our State and Federal MPs, and prominent community and business people. It was heartening to see that in spite of some “diversity” of personalities, every person listened and contributed very positively to the common goal. I couldn’t help wondering why this kind of round table hasn’t happened much more often in the past. My designated role was to investigate the viability of fast economical containerised rail freight delivery to the valley. Unfortunately, the conclusion was in the negative. The existing northern rail link to Port of Brisbane over the Border Range and through 1,600m of tunnels and spiral loops is too slow and double stack containers impossible. Its upgrade simply isn’t an economically viable proposition. However, during the course of the research I stumbled on “The Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study” conducted in 2012 by the NSW Dept of Transport. It made interesting reading, along with a number of other related studies. The study relies heavily on the current demographics of the Northern Rivers and the projected population growth, from 287,000 now to 367,000 in 15 years’ time. It also makes no mention of the estimated doubling of the heavy freight road traffic on the Pacific Highway over the same period. What was more disturbing was the failure of the study to notice that the construction of a 29km heavy rail track between Murwillumbah and Tweed/Coolangatta would link the Northern Rivers to the Gold Coast International Airport, the Brisbane Metropolitan rail system, and possibly a fast and economic route for container freight from the Port of Brisbane. The impact on population and economic growth, health care, tourism and cost of living in the Northern Rivers must surely warrant at least a preliminary feasibility study? I would think any kind of cost benefit analysis would show that the unit returns on construction of 29km of heavy rail would significantly outstrip those projected from the estimated $82B outlay on the high speed Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne rail that should have been built 20 years ago anyway. Ian Saunders, Hon Sec – Greater Maclean Community Action Group