The Cooma and Monaro Progress Association’s (CMPA) concept plan for a Canberra to Eden railway is far from something out of the blue. Engineer Edwin Michell says that his Bega Valley route is broadly similar to one proposed by a Mr Arnheim in the 1800s.
“Once on the Bega Valley bottom, it would pass close to the townships of Candelo, Wolumla, and Pambula, using the surveyed but unbuilt Bega-Eden Railway. It would have the advantage of being able to serve several townships and a potential spur to Bega,” he said.
More recently it is a subject that has occupied the minds of some councils who are part of the Canberra Region Joint Organisation (CRJO), a collective of 12 councils and the ACT government.
There are a number of stars that are aligning, albeit distantly, for those who are interested in the rail link; the development of the Port of Eden, Snowy 2.0, the Brisbane to Melbourne rail line and Canberra’s international airport .
The development of the Port of Eden isn’t only about cruise ships or tourism although they are important. With the right infrastructure the movement of freight could be improved through the south eastern corner of the country.
Three other councils - Queanbyean-Palerang, Goulburn Mulwarree and Snowy Monaro – have raised the prospects of better utilisation of the Port of Eden for freight opportunities.
And while Snowy 2.0 will happen way before any potential rail link has a full set of plans, the Snowy project has the potential of significant jobs and opens up discussion on using the Port of Eden for shipping in parts before trucking them to the areas needed.
The CRJO has discussed the potential of a train service from Canberra and Queanbeyan through to Cooma and then eventually on to Eden.
These are big picture ideas and our councillors and council staff should rightly be taking the opportunity to put these discussions on the big infrastructure agenda.
There is no doubt that we need to get Brown Mountain sorted out in the meantime and investigate an alternative Imlay Road east/west corridor. With the amount of money going into local development we should ensure we have those visionary discussions now so we develop locally in the context of a broader plan that is hopefully for the betterment of the region and community.