Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison has not closed the door on the reinstatement of the Great Northern Railway, but says more work will need to be done before making any decisions.
Ms Aitchison was speaking in NSW Parliament on Thursday in response to a petition of nearly 11,000 signatures brought by Trains North, and advocated for by Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall.
"This is a really fraught situation I think from a lot of history - putting the cart before the horse in what are we going to do next," she said.
"Transport is the social determinant of education, health and jobs - wherever we see an opportunity to improve that we should do it, but we need to do it in a more strategic and coordinated way than previously.
"What we want to do is that when we come to these debates we come from a position of evidence and business cases."
Ms Aitchison said the sitting Labor government was committed to looking closely at how taxpayer dollars were being spent on transport projects and that she wanted to look at the situation "in the fullness of the whole region".
She said she had amicable meetings with various advocacy groups prior to the debate, including Trains North, the Northern Rail Defenders and the local Member.
She also praised the work of Trains North on its efforts to rally people and bring the issue to parliament's attention.
"So I really want to thank the people who have put this petition to us."
Mr Marshall said he saw February 8's debate as a starting point rather than a stopping off point.
"Today is not the end of this debate, I view it as just the beginning," Mr Marshall said in his address.
"I note the minister in her correspondence has not ruled out the re-use of the line, suggesting that there needs to be a business case provided.
"The line has been inactive since the early 1990s ... I was in Kindergarten.
"There's a lot of people who have worked over many years to bring this petition to parliament today."
Mr Marshall said the Great Northern line had been considered as part of the Inland Rail project, which ultimately went further west.
He said he welcomed the comments from the Minister that the NSW Government would 'have a look' and said that transport options needed to be considered not only to Sydney, but to the coast and also north into Queensland.
In a letter addressed to Mr Marshall after the petition was tabled at the end of 2023, Ms Aitchison said the government currently had no plans to re-open passenger services north of Armidale.
"The government has committed to delivering Strategic Regional Integrated Transport Plans. These plans will reflect the needs of regional communities and will include detailed evaluations of the communities' transport needs now and into the future," her letter reads.
"They will include actions and initiatives that are costed to enable funding decisions to be made based on priorities. To determine whether the passenger train services on the Great Northern Railway between Armidale and Jennings/Wallangarra could be made operational again, Transport for NSW would need to review the proponent's business case.
"I invite the Hon. Adam Marshall MP to contact Transport for NSW directly should he have any further queries in relation to the matter."