The proponents of a Wagga to Albury commuter train have been told to crunch the numbers if they want to get government support.
Wagga MP Daryl Maguire said cold hard facts were needed to make a business case for the potentially expensive rail link.
“You would need to have an outstanding business case to justify the cost of trains and staffing,” Mr Maguire said.
“There’s also the question of whether industries and businesses support it.
“There’s no point running a train with two people on it and also the question of whether it would be faster than road transport.”
Councillor Vanessa Keenan released a discussion paper on Monday about a possible shuttle service between the cities, touting growth opportunities for the region.
The concept generated strong interest not only in Wagga and Albury, but also in smaller towns along the Olympic Highway that see a large amount of commuter traffic on weekdays.
One of the biggest advantages to Cr Keenan’s proposal was the abundance of relatively cheap real estate between the cities, which could see people move to the region from metropolitan centres if a strategic approach was taken to future infrastructure investment.
Housing affordability was one of the driving forces behind a push to build high-speed rail in Australia, such as Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop”, but years of talk had failed to result in concrete plans.
However, even the federal government’s inland rail line presented opportunities for growth in both Wagga and Albury.
“We’re on a growth corridor,” Mr Maguire said.
“With the federal government investing money in the Brisbane to Melbourne rail line, all that traffic will move through Wagga.
“It may not even necessarily be Wagga people, but people at The Rock or industries that would find it appealing to invest here and as the (Bomen freight hub) comes online there may be a case to argue.”
Federal MP Michael McCormack said there had been quite a bit of discussion about using existing rail infrastructure in the way Cr Keenan had suggested.
“Anything that can link regional capitals together needs to be looked at,” Mr McCormack said.
“I’d certainly be happy to talk to my state counterparts about any proposal that might come up.”
Wagga Ratepayer’s Community head Wes Fang said the idea deserved support if a business case could be made.
“Having an established rail service between these two major cities will only strengthen the future case for a very fast train line to pass through Wagga and Albury,” Mr Fang said.
“This would provide an economic boost for both cities.”