The Bombala railway line is a partially closed branch railway line in the south of New South Wales Australia. It branches from the Main South line at Joppa Junction (Goulburn) and passes south through the townships of Bungendore, Queanbeyan and Cooma before ending in Bombala. The original full section of the line eventually reached the township of Cooma in 1887, and then was extended as an add-on to Bombala, with this section of the line reaching Bombala during 1921.

Closure of the Southern end of the lineEdit

In 1988, the NSW State Government commissioned a report into the State Rail authority and its operations. This was completed by American infrastructure consultants Booz Allen Hamilton. The report, which was delivered in 1989, recommended widespread job losses ofup to 8000, including the withdrawal of staff from 94 country railway stations, including the withdrawal of the services on the Queanbeyan to Cooma line.

The report also recommended the removal of all country passenger services and small freight operations, but the government did not consider this to be politically feasible. On the Bombala line, rail traffic on the Cooma to Bombala section of the line had already been halted in 1986. Subsequently, this was joined by halting services between Bredbo and Cooma in 1989.In early 1990, the traffic between Queanbeyan and Bredbo was halted. After this, the Main South Lines main purpose became mostly for interstate rail travel for passengers in and out of Canberra.

Travel on the Queanbeyan to Cooma section and beyond was replaced by motor coach. The Government cited passenger numbers as its justification, and the costly bill to restore the track between Queanbeyan and Cooma. There was also the issue of the safety of the aging wooden trestle bridge, over the Numeralla river.

As of 2012, the line between Joppa Junction (Goulburn) and Queanbeyan still remains open, having survived the previous restructure of rail services and sees regular passenger trains between Sydney and Canberra. This has come about, following an agreement with the Federal Government, to ensure the full continuation of rail services between Canberra's Interstate Kingston Rail Station and the rest of the Countrylink network. This has been done to ensure that Canberra's public can travel to and from Sydney by rail.

The 49 km between Queanbeyan and Michelago was also re-opened in April 1993 for heritage tourist operation by the ACT Division of the Australian Railway Historical Society.[1] This line has been shortened as the line deteriorated, until being finally closed at the beginning of 2007 due to storm damage.

Disappointingly, this still remains the case as of early 2012, with the ACT Division of the Australian Historical Society now concentrating its activities on the tourist sector, namely tourist and short rail trips from the fully operational Canberra to Bungendore section of the line, northeast of Canberra.[2]

On the Cooma end of the line, there is another heritage railway. The Cooma Monaro Railway. The Cooma Monaro Railway had its origins in a public meeting in 1992, when a group of local Cooma people decided to restore the Cooma Railway Station. This had fallen into disrepair since the closure of the line beyond Canberra some 4 years before. After the group had restored the Cooma Railway Station, efforts were then made by the group to acquire some rolling stock and re-open a section of track. This came to fruition starting in 1998, with over 17 kilometres of railway track now reopened and in use. The Cooma Monaro Railway (CMR), has subsequently used restored CPH Railmotors (Tin Hares) on the line between Cooma and Chakola.[1]

The futureEdit

The section of track between Michelago and Chakola remains an obstacle for the reopening of the full line between Queanbeyan and the township of Cooma. Realignment of the Monaro Highway has in a few cases encroached on the rail line reservation and there is also the rail bridge over the Numeralla River which needs significant upgrading to meet current engineering standards.

Hope has been raised a number of times for the full reopening of the section of rail between Queanbeyan and Cooma. In recent times, mining operations have commenced near Cooma and there have been consistent calls to remove petrol tankers from NSW's roads on the grounds of safety. Before the Queanbeyan to Cooma line was closed, petrol fuel was fully railed into Cooma on a regular basis from Sydney using the line.

There have also been calls for the line to be used for local services from Canberra through Queanbeyan to Bungendore.[3]

The future of the far section of line from Cooma to Bombala seems less certain. Originally designed for the area's farmers to move their cattle, sheep and produce, this section seems to have fallen victim to the modern age. Early last century, the builders of the Cooma to Bombala line hoped that some continuity would eventually follow, with future rail construction and services from Bombala continuing down south across the Victorian border. This joining up with the rail system of Victoria never eventuated, despite Victoria having a rail line 100 km away at Orbost, as late as the early 1990s. This Orbost to Bairnsdale line, which is now closed, was used mainly used for freight and logging.

One possibility in the future is an upgraded straightened rail line from Goulburn to Cooma via Canberra, which could see a modern rail link following a slightly modified version of the route going to Bairnsdale in Victoria, allowing a very fast train project between Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. This would mean using an eastern rail corridor. Feasibility, both in terms of cost and solving of the different rail gauge problem, would be needed, as well as well justified figures in terms of freight and patronage numbers.

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