Property owners along the proposed Inland Rail Link between Stockinbingal and Illabo have lashed back at suggestions construction will begin before 2018.
The suggested ARTC route slated to form part of the Brisbane to Melbourne line has come under fire from residents, who have been unable to obtain any substantial records or plans outlining when, where and how the rail will be constructed.
Stockinbingal farmer Tim Berryman’s property is already intersected by rail and threatens to be further divided by the Inland Rail link.
He has spent weeks organising and rescheduling meetings with government and transport officials about the proposed route and says the process has been frustrating.
“It’s been very difficult,” Mr Berryman said.
“We are being told repeatedly that the rail link will benefit us as farmers, but we can’t see any benefit at all and no one has shown us otherwise.
“It’s not like we’re going suddenly produce more than we were before as a result of the rail link.”
When asked about compensation, Mr Berryman said he was given assurances that money would be paid but no further discussion regarding the amount or time of payment had occurred.
Mr Berryman also expressed doubts about Federal MP for Riverina Michael McCormack’s promise earlier this week that construction would be underway before 2018.
“There’s been no geotechnical assessment or soil testing and no-one has approached us about when these tests may occur,” he said.
Neighbouring farmer Tony Harris was another to speak out, echoing Mr Berryman’s sentiments and denouncing the lack of community consultation as “disgraceful”.
“They won’t tell us anything,” he said.
“I’ve got a railway through my place at Stockinbingal and I’ve been asking for a crossing for three years.
“Now they want to put a line through my farm.
“They must be joking.”
Mr Harris said he supported the intent to create a national link but argued the 1600km Shepparton-Tocumwal-Narrandera route proposed by private consortium National Trunk Rail would be a more sustainable and cost-effective solution.
“If they decide to build here, they’ll be dealing with a floodplain and some seriously tough terrain,” he said.
“The line needs to head west to tap into the “future food bowl” and cotton industries,” he said.
Mr McCormack has since clarified his position on the proposed route’s scheduled construction but said he had “full confidence” in the ARTC’s ability to liaise effectively with the local community and fulfill their planned link.
“I’ve met with a number of residents in the Illabo and Stockinbingal area to discuss this issue and I’m aware that the ARTC has conducted public consultation outlining the proposed impact in the region,” Mr McCormack said.
“I have confidence in their contingencies and alternate routes and am sure that the relevant experts will have the proposed route properly mapped out.
“We will be seeing some activity in the Riverina district on this project by the end of the year.”
More to come.