Better Benalla Rail, the community group pushing the Save our Station campaign, is gaining momentum and has big plans moving forward.
Committee member David Moore said the group's new website is now up and running and their pop-up shop on Nunn St will be open early next month.
“We are very pleased with the progress the campaign is making,” Mr Moore said.
“We have been overwhelmed with the community support and the positive feedback we are getting.
“In the last week Suzie Pearce has spoken to two Probus groups and they have been so enthusiastic in their support, including making some financial donations, which we are very appreciative of.
“The message that keeps coming back to us from the community, from everyone we speak to, is that they did not know about these plans for the station.
“And that is despite comment from ARTC's Ed Walker stating that community consultation had taken place.
“Personally I am yet to meet anyone who was consulted.”
Mr Moore said one of the things that shocked the community most was when they found out about the plans for the retaining wall and overpass on Mackellar St.
“Current ARTC plans show that the idea is to replace the current overpass, which leads to the station car park, with one seven metres high supported by a huge retaining wall, which would be almost double the current length,” Mr Moore said.
“Apart from the visual horror of having a seven-metre concrete retaining wall stretching from the station to Byrne St, it will make the station so much worse.
“People won’t be able to park, there’s even restricted parking now, and this plan would only make that worse.
“And how you’ll get to the station if you are living with a disability is beyond me.
“The length of the existing retaining wall is already several cricket pitched long and they want to double it.”
Mr Moore said he was disappointed the ARTC had said they would not consider moving the XPT line to the other side of the station, which was the SOS group's preference.
“I’ve got no doubt that if the people of Benalla stand with us on this issue I believe we can win,” Mr Moore said.
“It’s political pressure in the end that will change the minds of the bureaucrats.
“The people who have drawn these plans, they did it in March 2018 over in Adelaide, and I wonder if they’ve even been to this town.”
Mr Moore said he suspected the changes to the plans that the group wanted would only come when they had enough people behind them in Benalla.
He said the SOS group feels they will begin to see even more momentum if they can get the backing of local politicians.
The support of State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan and Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines is something the group hopes to secure - although neither has made an official statement regarding their position on the plans for the Inland Rail Project.
“We have arranged to meet with Steph Ryan next week,” Mr Moore said.
“We are looking forward to that.
“I think Steph has a strong following in this community, she’s very well respected.
“I think having her supporting us would be a huge step forward.
“We are also looking to set up a meeting with with Helen Haines.
“And we’ve planned a whole series of events including deputations to a number of people, including politicians.
“We’ll be ramping up our efforts and will be in a position to share more of our plans with the community once our pop-up store is open.
“It will be 81-83 Nunn, it’s the old red-brick building next to NAB.
“The owners of that building have generously agreed to loan it to us and the cause.”
The pop-up store will officially open on March 5.
The ARTC advised The Ensign last week that at present they have no plan to take the SOS groups suggestions regarding moving the XPT line on-board.
They said the reason for this was that the budget of the Inland Rail Project was limited and their projected costings for moving the line were too costly.
In response to that The Ensign asked just two follow-up questions: What is the budget for the Inland Rail Project? And What is the projected cost to move the XPT line to the other side of Benalla Station?
At the time if publishing we had received no answer to either question.
● You can find more information about the SOS campaign at its new website www.betterbenallarail.com