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Training up for a greener future

THE rail line from Coffs Harbour to Sydney could close in less than a decade, leaving freight at the mercy of petrol dependent transport when peak oil is looming, according to visiting experts.

University of Wollongong Associate Professor, Dr Philip Laird, was in Coffs Harbour yesterday as a guest speaker for the Rescue Rail Forum, a public meeting to discuss future options for rail transport in the era of high petrol prices and climate change.

Dr Laird said NSW must adopt a Queensland style line upgrade, which would cut two hours from the trip between Coffs and Sydney and allow for significantly more freight to be carted.

"The line between Coffs Harbour and Sydney is 90 kilometres longer than it should be and the current railway cannot compete with trucks unless the tracks are straightened to allow for faster, heavier trains," Dr Laird said.

"If that does not happen, by 2016 this line could be a candidate for closure."

Dr Laird said upgrades to roads, such as the Tugun bypass at the Gold Coast, cost $30 million per kilometre, while rail deviations cost less than $10 million per kilometre.

"Trains are three times more fuel efficient than trucks, produce less greenhouse gases and are safer than adding more trucks to the roads," he said.

Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, who is also a speaker at the Forum, said rocketing petrol prices should force the government to upgrade rail services and adopt a moratorium on oil dependent infrastructure.

"Nowhere is the need for action on peak oil clearer than in Northern NSW where the government has slashed rail services while investing significantly in the Pacific Highway upgrade," Ms Rhiannon she said.

"Climate change, peak oil and record petrol prices will fundamentally change the way people and freight travel, particularly in rural and regional NSW."


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