Benalla Ensign

Have say on Inland Rail, Haines urges

- By Simon Ruppert

With the Australian Rail Track Corporatio­n releasing three designs for Benalla Station’s Inland Rail alteration­s, Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has urged the community to have a say.

Dr Haines said now was the time for Benalla to make its voices heard to ensure the Rose City got the best outcome from the project.

“The latest draft designs... show the advocacy and lobbying (from community groups) was already making an impact,” Dr Haines said.

“Engaging in the next stage of consultati­on would make it impossible to ignore the views of communitie­s on the options proposed.”

The north-east leg of the Federal Government’s $15.4 billion Inland Rail project requires major infrastruc­ture works to allow taller and heavier double-stacked trains to run on the North-East line.

In Benalla, once that work is complete, there will be 19 double-stacked freight trains coming through every 24 hours, on top of passenger rail services.

There has been deep concern along the rail line about what the works would mean for regional towns, with strong opposition to large new overpasses to accommodat­e the double-stacked trains.

Dr Haines has been working with the people of Benalla for years through consultati­on with the ARTC.

“When I first started meeting with the ARTC two years ago, they told me their overpass proposals were a done deal, and the community proposals would be too expensive and could never happen,” Dr Haines said.

“But together we got a community proposal on the table.

“We have gotten to this point by speaking loudly as a community, so once again we must have our say to ensure ARTC delivers us the station we want.”

Dr Haines said she was cautiously optimistic about the next stage of consultati­on.

“The ARTC seems to have turned a corner in the way it is listening and responding to the needs of towns like (Benalla),” she said.

“But this is not the end of the line — your responses now will make all the difference.”

“Just this week I met with the ARTC to scrutinise this consultati­on process and they confirmed to me that in Benalla, (all) options are genuinely on the table — they are budgeted, they are technicall­y feasible.

“It will come down to which one the community supports.

“I know people in towns affected by inland rail have already been through many stages of consultati­on, but they must not give up now.

“I will continue to work... to ensure ARTC listens to locals, and to make sure the best option is reached for all the towns in Indi affected by the inland rail project.”

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