Local MP lets off steam over rail

Page MP Janelle Saffin says you don't normally see her out on the street with a petition in hand, but some issues are so important that she's driven to pick up her clipboard and pen.

Ms Saffin has added her voice to the chorus of opposition around the NSW Government's plan to allow disused rail lines to be sold and has started a petition urging the NSW Government to quarantine the Casino to Murwillumbah corridor from the process. She has also written to NSW Transport Minister David Campbell.

Ms Saffin was out at the Lismore Car Boot Market on Sunday collecting signatures and said she was overwhelmed by support. One man had come all the way from Ballina just to sign the petition. She was also on the streets in Lismore this week and is planning to take the campaign to the streets of Casino.

Ms Saffin wants the line to be kept in public ownership while the Integrated Regional Transport Plan for the Northern Rivers and South East Queensland is being completed.

“My message is that we need to keep the line so we have options... If that option (the rail corridor) goes, then there is little hope of having any type of rail system,” she said. “The Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC) is about to seek feasibility funding from local, state and federal governments to develop an agreed plan... It is important that the NSW Government does nothing that could make our job harder as we move towards a transport system that will serve our social, environmental and economic needs for the next 50 years.

“Lots of people are out there lobbying but because I'm driving the regional plan I felt a responsibility to do this.”

Transport Minister David Campbell played down the controversial legislation.

“I am aware of Janelle Saffin's petition and I encourage people to have their say,” he said. “With over 3000 kilometres of disused rail line across NSW it is appropriate that the government investigate where these lines may be converted into something useful for rural and regional communities.

“However, as I have said, any changes would only be made if the community wanted it, following a close community consultation process. This is about converting the use of old rail lines which would never reopen anyway. Rail trails would only be considered for disused corridors where there is virtually no likelihood of services ever being reintroduced.”

Despite intervening in a State issue, Ms Saffin's efforts were dismissed by rail lobby group TOOT.

“We're glad that Ms Saffin is once again discussing the issue of our rail line, but we don't support her apparent stance that only our Casino to Murwillumbah line should be protected,” TOOT president Karin Kolbe said. “We reject any attempts to divide the NSW Rail community and the travelling public into 'worthy' and 'unworthy' lines. The legislation applies to all rail corridors, including those that are still operational, not only disused ones. The point of the legislation is to sell land to developers.

“We call on Ms Saffin and (Richmond MP) Ms Elliot to support a return of services to our rail line and to stop playing political games with the state government.”

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