Border Mail editorial: Why Albury to Wagga commuter rail concept could be a winner

Mention anything to do with rail in Albury-Wodonga and inevitably the conversation ends with frustration at the unreliability of the line between Melbourne and the Border.

Whether it’s from being shuttled onto buses or from arriving at their destination late, passengers have often been left frustrated by the experience.

While this is a different kettle of fish, a proposal to run a daily commuter train between Albury and Wagga has the potential to be an incredibly positive rail story.

As it stands, the only way to make a return rail journey between the Border and Wagga on the same day involves a trip in the very early hours of the morning.

Under the concept that was raised at a regional cities meeting recently, commuters could live in one city and work normal hours in the other.

Anything that can better connect two strong regional centres like Albury and Wagga is a good thing.

With Charles Sturt University having campuses in both cities and Murrumbidgee Local Health District taking in much of Albury’s surrounding district, education and health loom as just two sectors to benefit from increased connectivity.

Many government departments and regionally-based businesses have a presence in both Albury and Wagga and, as Vanessa Keenan says, there’s already “a lot of commuting happening that we don't know about”.

With capital cities becoming increasingly crowded and leaders pushing people to live or work in regional areas, communities need confidence they can be afforded the same opportunities as those in metropolitan centres. 

Of course, the plan is only its conceptual stages and a lot of government support would be needed before it could become a reality but, on face value, it’s a project worth supporting.

With the North East train line barely rating a mention with the Victorian government – see our $15 million compared to Ballarat’s $518 million in the last state budget – it’s a wonderful opportunity for those in Macquarie Street to show that NSW is made up of more than Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.

If a feasibility study finds the project is achievable, it would then be up to the people of Albury, Wagga and surrounding regions to ensure it is supported.