New plan puts Grafton at centre of freight transport hub
A BOLD plan put forward by the Grafton Chamber of Commerce could make Grafton a centre of freight transport on the North Coast.
An intermodal hub was part of a long-term strategy to ensure the economic prosperity of Grafton by capitalising on existing infrastructure and geographical location, the chamber said.
Chamber president Justin James said they had already met with local, state and federal members to discuss their 'big picture ideas' including the hub.
"An integral part of our 'big ideas' strategy is the development of a major intermodal hub which would tick all the boxes for regionalisation, jobs growth and reducing congestion in the major cities," he said.
"We applaud both the NSW and Federal governments for establishing policies and targets for regionalisation and decentralisation and we think that this initiative could play a major part in achieving those aims."
Proceeding with the initiative would require investment of $300,000 to fund a concept plan, something the chamber had been discussing with local politicians and candidates leading up to the state and federal elections.
"If politicians are serious about regionalisation in NSW then we are willing to work with them to deliver outcomes for Grafton that have real merit," Mr James said.
Plans to build a similar transportation hub at Casino are well advanced, with a site having been chosen and discussions with investors continuing.
The Grafton hub would incorporate existing road and rail infrastructure to cater for the movement of freight on the east coast, with Phil Bellety of the chamber saying Grafton was in a unique geographical position.
"Grafton is the only operational rail hub between Newcastle and Brisbane and presents opportunities for redevelopment with the critical infrastructure already existing," he said.
"We propose that rail be the primary bulk transport medium linking with road, water and air for distribution."
Gwydir Highway access could also be an important factor for Grafton as it is one of the two main east-west links in northern NSW - along with the Bruxner Highway - according to a 2017 Northern Rivers NSW Freight Scoping Study by Southern Cross University.
Part of the study examined the freight capacity of the two highways and the role they played in freight transportation in the Northern Rivers.
"While both corridors play important roles as east-west regional freight routes, only the Gwydir Highway accepts up to 26m B-doubles on its full length between the New England Highway and the Pacific Highway," the study said.
Mr Bellety said the ability to capitalise on existing infrastructure was critical to the plan and would help build economic sustainability in the region.
"We would not be starting from scratch so that would keep overall costs down," he said.
"This would have a significant benefit to the regional economy by creating new jobs, many of which would be Certificate II and III level.
"Grafton could process road and rail freight for distribution across regional and Northern NSW, reducing congestion in the cities."