The first official discussions on the Inland Rail project took place in Parkes on Wednesday, with a steady turnout of curious residents.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) kicked off its first of six information sessions in the region this week in the Coventry Room near the Parkes Library.
The discussions – also taking place in Peak Hill Wednesday afternoon and Narromine on Thursday – centred around the Parkes to Narromine section of the rail project, which is the ARTC’s first area of focus.
The sessions were of an informal nature, with specialists covering specific areas so the public had an option of what they wanted to discuss.
These areas included environment, noise, construction, property, project, hydrology, heritage, level crossings and community.
The ARTC counted 18 people turned out for Parkes’ three-hour session and 12 people in Peak Hill.
ARTC Programme Delivery Director for the Inland Rail, Simon Thomas, said those who attended the session had a range of interests, including land access and acquisition, level crossings, understanding about the business opportunities and general updates about Inland Rail.
“Australian Rail Track Corporation were delighted to have the opportunity to meet and discuss Inland Rail during the drop-in information sessions at Peak Hill and Parkes this week,” he said.
“Sessions like this are part of our ongoing consultation with the community.”
Former train drivers Danny Blakemore and Trevor Southwell, and Parkes Country Labor president Barney Thompson attended Wednesday morning’s session and fully support the project.
“I think it’s great,” Barney said.
“This is about the Parkes to Narromine section, is it going to be close to Coonamble and Baradine? That’s what I’ve been asking.
“Because it’s pretty good farming out there, it’s prime wheat country.”
Danny said he was pleased the Inland Rail was finally happening.
“It’s the same as it was in 2010 but now it’s happening,” he said.
“It’s been held up for too long.”
Danny’s questions focused on if there were going to be any rail access points for farmers.
“You don’t want them travelling 500 kilometres [to off-load their crop yields],” he said.
But the men said they were disappointed there were no passenger trains yet and made sure the ARTC knew that.
“You can imagine how good it would be if you had a passenger train coming from Melbourne on its way to Brisbane and stopping in Parkes, they could come to the Elvis Festival,” Barney said.
“There’d have to be a hell of a lot of freight trains, they should be able to run a passenger train,” Danny added.
Barney said he remembered Anthony Albanese pushing for $300 million to go toward the Inland Rail in 2013.
“Nothing has been done until now,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who does it as long as it gets done.”
Next week’s drop-in information sessions will be held at the Coventry Room in Parkes between 3pm-7pm on Tuesday, and between 9am-12pm, also Tuesday, in Peak Hill at the Ex Services and Citizens Club.
Mr Thomas said that ARTC’s project team members will be on hand at the sessions to answer questions about the Environmental Impact Statement.
“The information sessions are open to everyone and I encourage people to come and learn more about this exciting project for Australia,” he said.
“Central West NSW stands to benefit from Inland Rail and ARTC understands how important it is for people to understand the proposals for their local area.”