18 September 2003

North meets south in rail line

A 145-year-old dream to link southern and northern Australia by rail through the centre has been realised.

The final thermic weld linking the existing Adelaide to Alice Springs railway with the new line to Darwin took place this afternoon with a crowd of about 250 people looking on.

A railway between Adelaide and Darwin was first proposed in 1858.

While the line was extended through Alice Springs in 1929, it has taken another 74 years for the railway to travel further north.

Officials including Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin and South Australian Premier Mike Rann attended the celebrations today.

Ms Martin says it will provide a new and efficient transport link between Asian and southern Australian markets.

It is also expected to provide a tourism boost to the Territory, with $1 million worth of tickets already sold for the first passenger journey to Darwin next year.

The $1 billion project is just one week away from completion with only about 12 kilometres to go until it reaches the end of the line at the Port of Darwin.

It's not just a 145-year old dream. Sadly it was a definite political promise to South Australia (which included what is now the Northern Territory until 1911) by the federation movement in the 1890s. The noncore promise seems to be as old as the Commonwealth itself.

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