The Cooma and Monaro Progress Association (CMPA) has published a concept plan for a Canberra to Eden railway produced by engineer Edwin Mitchell.
The concept plan not only looks at resurrecting the disused railway between Canberra and Bombala it also addresses the engineering difficulties of a new route down the escarpment between Bombala and Eden.
CMPA spokesman Richard Hopkins said the rail would also need to meet the requirements of freight to be balanced with those of passenger rail.
The rationale of the project takes into account that from the earliest days of Canberra’s planning it was considered essential a railway existed “for reasons of economic and military necessity as well as for recreation”, so Australia’s capital would have a direct link to the coast by railway.
Despite the grand plans of the 1800s the terrain of the coastal escarpment has prevented the construction of a railway and in doing so has relatively isolated Canberra from the rest of Australia.
In fact, Edwin Mitchell said “we have gone backward since that time” and closed the Queanbeyan to Bombala railway in 1988, but the rail corridor is still there, unused.
Mitchell cites that Sydney’s economic dominance has for a long time been its greatest strength, but the congestion of its road system and the fact major transport routes into the city are at or nearing capacity and are also slow and more often than not, expensive.
The report also mentions the rugged terrain surrounding the Sydney Basin making the construction of new routes difficult. Port Botany is also at capacity so freight customers are looking for alternatives.
Meanwhile Canberra has become an economic centre in its own right and its airport is Australia’s most modern with the capacity to significantly increase easy access freight routes.
At the other end of the proposed railway is Twofold Bay, recognised as one of the finest natural deep water anchorages in Australia.
The Port of Eden located on Twofold Bay’s southern shore has been disadvantaged by the lack of a major freight link to the rest of Australia.
A railway from Canberra to Eden would redirect millions of tons of freight per year away from the congested main southern railway, the Hume Freeway and Port Botany.
It could also provide an alternative for logging companies to move their stock.