John Rooney an optimist when it comes to regional rail

ALL ABOARD: Snowy Monaro Regional Council mayor John Rooney is optimistic about rail extending to the Eden Wharf.
ALL ABOARD: Snowy Monaro Regional Council mayor John Rooney is optimistic about rail extending to the Eden Wharf.

New Snowy Monaro Regional Council mayor John Rooney has flagged the idea of extending rail through the Snowy Mountains and across to Eden, saying the idea needed to be revisited.

Cr Rooney pointed to the expansion of the Eden Wharf as a major reason to think about rail in the state’s south.

“Rail tourism into the Snowy Monaro and further into the Bega Valley could happen,” he said.

“With the cruise ships coming into Eden, the expansion of the mill in Bombala and a growing population in Canberra, the proposition could stack up in a very positive way.”

Cr Rooney said rail was the most efficient form of land transport and that reopening the Queanbeyan-Bombala railway would give the Dongwha mill access to softwood plantations in the ACT and Palarang.

“Rail is a very attractive option for cargo handling,” Cr Rooney said.

“It’s about time we revisit how the economics stack up.”

The council’s new mayor is an economist with 30 years’ experience, having advised the federal government on a variety of issues, including transport.

He said population growth in the Canberra region and the capital’s airport now boasting international connections served as reasons to revisit rail in the state’s south.

“Firstly we need to have discussions with the state government. If they’re interested in the proposition then we need to approach international investors to inject money into such a big-ticket item,” Cr Rooney said.

“In the 21st century rail is right back on the agenda at state and federal level, so perhaps it’s time for local governments to look at rail.

“I’d like to discuss this with fellow mayors Kristy McBain in the Bega Valley and Tim Overall in Queanbeyan, as well as Chief Minister (Andrew) Barr in Canberra.

“If no one is prepared to talk about it then it won’t be on anyone’s agenda. It’ll put the south east of NSW back on the table for a big picture infrastructure project.”

He said rail was having a renaissance in Australia, pointing to the inland rail project between Melbourne and Brisbane as one example of the federal government investing in rail. 

The mayor has the backing of SMRC planning manager Mark Adams, who last year said a lot of factors had changed since the state government closed the line in the 1980s and that it was time to revisit the idea.

Talk of rail connecting Bombala to Eden has been ongoing for almost 100 years, as evidenced in an article published in the Bombala Times on July 28, 1922.

The article stated a movement to construct the railway was “growing stronger every day” as a link to Bega was also discussed.