Helen Haines has urged the communities of Euroa and Benalla to make their voices heard in the latest round of consultation by the Australian Rail Track Corporation, to ensure each town gets the best outcome in the inland rail station upgrades.
The Federal Independent Member for Indi said the latest draft designs for the two towns showed the advocacy and lobbying was already making an impact, and engaging in the next stage of consultation would make it impossible to ignore the views of the communities on the options proposed for the towns.
The ARTC last week released two proposed designs for replacing the Anderson Street Bridge in Euroa: the ARTC’s original proposal for an oversized bridge and the community-backed proposal for a vehicle underpass that has long been called for by residents.
The designs for Euroa followed the release of designs for Benalla that included a re-alignment of the tracks that community had been advocating for.
“The inclusion of the underpass in the designs proposed for Euroa is a sign the ARTC is listening to the people of Euroa, who have had concerns for a long time that an oversized bridge over the line would further divide the town”, Dr Haines said.
“I have been working closely with the town of Euroa every step of the way on this journey, advocating for transparency and a proper commitment to community consultation and the best outcome.”
The North East leg of the federal government’s $15.4 billion Better Rail project requires major infrastructure works to for allow taller and heavier double-stacked trains to run on the North East line.
There has been deep concern in towns in Indi along the rail line about what the works would mean for their towns, with strong opposition to large new overpasses to accommodate the double-stacked trains.
Dr Haines has been working with the people of Euroa 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. But together we got a community proposal on the table,” Dr Haines said.
“We have gotten to this point by speaking loudly as a community, so once again we must have our say to ensure the 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 Euroa. 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 both Euroa and Benalla, both options are genuinely on the table – they are both budgeted, they are both technically feasible. It will come down to which one the community supports”.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack visited towns in Indi affected by inland rail at the invitation of Dr Haines and it was only last month Dr Haines wrote to new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce inviting him to Indi to ensure he properly understood the needs of towns along the rail line.
Communities along the rail line are energised to keep consulting with the ARTC on what inland rail means for their towns.
“I know people in towns affected by inland rail have already been through many stages of consultation, but they must not give up now,” Dr Haines said.
“I will continue to work with the town of Euroa to ensure the 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.”