The historic Glenreagh railway yard.
The historic Glenreagh railway yard. Tim Jarrett

Plan could be 'greatest hospital pass of all time'

MOVING at the pace of a steam engine rather than a bullet train, a councillor has urged caution on the Glenreagh railway.

While the Glenreagh community could take heart from the council's decision to engage a consultant to conduct a risk assessment on the proposal by Glenreagh Rail and Preservation Society, councillor Richie Williamson said the project could become "the greatest hospital pass of all time".

In support of the motion to forge ahead with a risk assessment, Cr Williamson stressed the council would have to make a very "cautious and informed decision" and referred to the council report outlining Australian Rail and Track Corporation's stance on the plan.

"Not one of those dot points from what I can read is a win for the third party or council. Every one is a major win and offload for the ARTC," he said.

"So there is work to be done here and I think it is very prudent that we do undertake the risk assessment."

Comments from ARTC's Sydney property manager Derek Rogers said they considered entering into an agreement with the council more appropriate than with a community group and cautioned council on "ensuring community groups have capacity to deliver".

"Due to the large asset base, ARTC welcomes a suitable agreement/lease or license for management of the sites or specific buildings like at Glenreagh if an outcome can be achieved," the report stated.

"In signing an agreement, council accepts delegated responsibility for managing the rail corridor, and work performed in and subject to the agreement, in accordance with the National Rail Safety Regulation."

Mr Rogers made reference to an agreement reached with Dorrigo Steam and Railway Museum, which resulted in a site containing historic trains and railway equipment remaining unopened to the public after forming in 1973.

"ARTC considers a suitable agreement with council is more appropriate than one with a community group."

The precinct had just lost a significant part of its heritage with the recent destruction of the 103-year-old water tower, which Cr Karen Toms said made the situation urgent.

"This is something that needs to be fast-tracked, we have already lost the water tank. It has already been demolished and that is incredibly sad," she said.

"I am disgusted with how the water tower was brought down - and now that it has - let's not let the rest of it go."

Cr Williams said the destruction of the water tower was a "crying shame" which "greatly reduced the historical value of the precinct" and feared it may be too late to save the station. But he also said there was more to the issue than just the state of the termite-infested building.

"I'm interested to see what the actual risk is besides the obvious. Forget the asset risk, council would be responsible for a working rail corridor."