Debate on new rail report

University of Wollongong's SMART Infrastructure researcher Fariba Ramezani, Illawarra First executive director Chris Lamont and Tania Brown and Ross Bain from the Illawarra Business Chamber. Photo: Sylvia Liber
University of Wollongong's SMART Infrastructure researcher Fariba Ramezani, Illawarra First executive director Chris Lamont and Tania Brown and Ross Bain from the Illawarra Business Chamber. Photo: Sylvia Liber

A report calling for the upgrading of the Maldon-Dombarton line has been praised by some but others have suggested it is missing some important details.

Advocacy group Illawarra First released the report Upgrading rail connectivity between Illawarra and Sydney on Wednesday.

Carried out by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility, it recommended the Maldon-Dombarton line – dubbed the South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL) – be built as a dual track freight and passenger line.

“This is the first time that I’m aware of that any study has looked at changing Maldon-Dombarton from a freight infrastructure program to passengers and freight,” Illawarra First executive director Chris Lamont said.

“When you think about it, it’s a pretty obvious switch. You’ve got that massive growth out in south and southwest Sydney corridor, combined with the need to link this region with Sydney. It just seems to make sense.”

It also said work should be carried out incrementally to improve the condition of the South Coast line.

The report estimated the work would cost $1.6 billion compared to $2 billion for the South Coast line.

Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said the report showed why the line should be built and was critical of governments for not getting on with it.

“The state and federal Liberals just do not care about jobs for the region, they don’t care about the economic importance of transport links for the region and they continuously demonstrate time and again their disdain for investing in the Illawarra,” Ms Bird said.

Keira MP Ryan Park hoped the report would “put the spotlight” on the Maldon-Dombarton and would push to give it “the attention it deserves”.

Transport for NSW said the Maldon-Dombarton line was one of several options for dealing with the pressures between freight and passenger trains, but that position was not yet critical.

It cited a 2014 business case that said  “operational and demand modelling undertaken has shown that the line is not required for current operations”.

The state body also said the report did not deal with significant costs like the need to alter infrastructure to allow for tracks travelling in both directions, the train fleet and the redesigning of the Sydney system to accommodate the extra capacity.

Transport for NSW also said, were the line constructed major engineering issues would need to be overcome, including the clearing of diesel fumes from a 4km tunnel for passenger services.

There were also environmental considerations of running the line through water catchment areas.