LEETON Shire Council has taken the lead on a huge project which is aiming to achieve a state-of-the-art freight intermodel terminal for the Western Riverina.
Council is leading the collaboration, which is made up of councils from Griffith, Murrumbidgee, Carrathool and Narrandera.
Master plans for the project, which centres on the already-established freight hub at Wumbulgal, were officially released during a special on-site event on Tuesday.
The event was attended by the mayors of all five councils, as well as Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul O'Toole.
Titled WR Connect, the idea is to continue to build and transform the site at Wumbulgal into a freight hub that offers easy access for domestic and global markets looking to export more efficiently.
As an example this would be done through connectivity with the inland rail network and local airports.
It will also provide opportunities to capture and consolidate freight from across the region at a central multimodal point and provide optimal development of the site for product processing and manufacturing.
All five councils have backed the master plan for WR Connect, which has been funded by the Federal Government's Murray-Darling Diversification Fund and organised via the NSW state government's Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Beside an impressive cost benefit ratio based on freight and logistics efficiency improvements, there is also scope to add further revenue to the region by setting aside a portion of the 350 hectare site for uses such as manufacturing, business and technical services.
"The Western Riverina is truly the food bowl of NSW and even Australia," Leeton mayor Paul Maytom said.
"What is produced in the wider area is staggering, both in terms of volume and diversity.
"Activating the potential of this precinct is now crucial and we look forward to state and federal government partners supporting us to getting our freight supply chain as efficient and effective as possible."
Four companies have already established domestic and global operations at WR Connect - GrainLink, Weilin Trade, Riverina Hay and LINX Cargo Care Group.
The shift from road to rail is expected to cut costs by $22 million in efficiency savings alone, as well as ease pressure on the region's roads and highways.
The project itself is estimated to cost upwards of $60 million, but there still remains a significant shortfall to cover the costs of road upgrades, new drainage systems, and proper signage.
Where that money will come from is still up in the air, especially with the federal election looming.
Ms Ley promised to "knock on the door of every minister" to get government funding for WR Connect if re-elected come May 18.
The plan's scope is massive and has a long way to go before being realised, but having won the support of all five councils, it's a positive step forward.
The plan will be delivered in three stages as the final link in the supply chain connecting Australia's food bowl to the rest of the world.
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