A Wagga councillor’s proposal to run a daily commuter train to Albury has generated significant interest from both cities.
Councillor Vanessa Keenan believed a reliable rail link could help the cities share infrastructure, creating new opportunities for business and drawing people away from metropolitan areas.
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said the concept had been raised at a regional cities meeting a few weeks ago where it generated interest from Albury and Griffith’s leaders.
“We’re going to pursue it further, get some more information about whether it should be a rail shuttle or a bus service, but it’s certainly worth looking at and I congratulate Cr Keenan for doing it,” Cr Conkey said.
“Wagga and Albury are the two biggest cities in the region and they’re growing, so it makes sense to have a reasonable public transport system for commuters travelling between them.”
Under the proposal, a priority shuttle would allow commuters to live in one city and work normal hours in the other, with WiFi-enabled carriages letting commuters stay connected.
Smaller communities like The Rock, Henty and Culcairn could also benefit from a commuter service. Cheaper housing prices would likely see an influx of new residents while existing commuters could leave their cars at home.
Cr Conkey said the overnight XPT train was not ideal for commuters.
“If a train left Albury at 8am you could get commuters to work here, or vice versa,” he said.
“It’s worth looking outside the box and we are getting some facts and figures from Albury as well. Griffith is also interested in being involved with a bus service.”
The development of “hub and spoke” transport was a good idea, according to Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti, but he didn’t think the western Riverina could be connected to the east without high-speed rail.
“It makes sense to connect feeder towns into the regional hubs because that’s where the jobs are,” Mr Pierotti said.
“Creating more connectivity with these smaller towns that are at risk of shrinking is a good way to support them, but you don’t want the distances to be too vast.”
Cr Keenan’s discussion paper on the shuttle service also pointed out the proposed high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne was still a long way off.