Canberra's rail corridor to Sydney could be electrified, following a landmark agreement by southern regional councils.
The councils might not agree on possible mergers, but they do agree on the electrification of the southern railway line, according to the Southern Tablelands Rail Users group (STRUG).
The group recently met council representatives from Wingecarribee Shire, Goulburn Mulwaree, Palerang Shire and Queanbeyan City councils. The southern railway line passes through all these local government areas.
STRUG president Greg Price said it was a positive meeting and the councils involved showed support for the electrification of the line.
"The councils agreed to put in a joint letter to support the proposal and they are also looking at forming a focus group about it."
Mr Price said
they were also investigating avenues for a joint feasibility study on the idea.
"Councils have access to funds that we, as a group, don't have. They may be able to get funding to do feasibility study for the costing of the project and they agreed they were going to look into it as a group."
Mr Price said the group was asking the state government to electrify the line.
"There is an incorrect belief held in the state government that electrification would require the railway line to be rerouted and that this option would be very expensive. Electrification of the line is a much more cost-effective proposal," he said.
"The line between Sydney and Canberra is the only line that is not electrified and it is time to bring this rail corridor into the 21st century."
He said electrification, in conjunction with tilt train technology, had the potential to significantly reduce journey times between Sydney and Canberra and boost population along the rail corridor.
"Electric trains support population growth. People are more likely to move to areas with good public transport. Councils along the rail corridor are planning for an almost doubling of the population over the next 20 years. This is added to 400,000 people in the ACT."
Mr Price said this rail corridor was the only corridor left that could offer expansion to the Sydney Metropolitan area because it was the only corridor that had not been developed.
"Development is reasonably easy, because land is quite flat compared to Blue Mountains and relatively cheap compared to other areas," he said.