State politician Daryl Maguire has rejected any notion of the government looking into a Wagga to Albury commuter train, despite strong support for the proposal.
The veteran parliamentarian made his comments after upper house Labor MP Daniel Mookhey called for state and federal governments to take the concept seriously.
Labor For Wagga councillor Vanessa Keenan went public with the idea four weeks ago, generating considerable support from across the region. More than 36 per cent of people polled by The Daily Advertiser said they would use the train at least once a week, with a further 29 per cent saying they would use it monthly.
However, Mr Maguire said the idea had nothing behind it and called Mr Mookhey “an upper house mouthpiece for the Labor Party”.
“He’s asking questions on behalf of the local Labor branch who have come up with an idea and have nothing to back it up,” Mr Maguire said.
“The fact of the matter is the idea has been floated and the proponents need to put forward a business case apart from one councillor travelling back and forth.
“It would cost $460 per passenger to run a train, compared to $46 on a bus – you’d want a lot of passengers in that train every day to make it viable.”
The criticism of Mr Mookhey put Cr Keenan on the offensive, saying he played a “critical role in holding our elected representative to account”.
“It’s disappointing Mr Maguire chooses to attack the ‘mouthpiece’ standing up for the community rather than take more than a cursory glance at the proposal,” Cr Keenan said.
“I’m shocked to hear that our elected representative is dismissive of even investigating a proposal purely on the grounds of it not being his idea.
“To be an effective representative of Wagga, the community expects more of Mr Maguire than taking pot shots at the opposition and to start championing for the city.”
Mayor Greg Conkey took a less partisan stance than his Labor colleague, but said the state government should invest in a feasibility study since it was state infrastructure.
“Wagga and Albury are the two largest regional cities in NSW and a lot of people move between them,” Cr Conkey said.
“Plus all the people from towns in between, they travel regularly for work and shopping so i think it’s worthy of further investigation.
“At some stage we’ve got to lower our reliance on cars and roads and look to public transport.”