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Giving Illawarra rail commuters a one-hour trip Sydney looks unlikely to happen.
The aim of reducing travel time from 90 minutes down to 60 was flagged by Infrastructure Australia in its 2012 State Infrastructure Strategy.
A revised version of the strategy omitted any mention of cutting 30 minutes off the travel time but did state substantial time savings would require spending a lot of money.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance reiterated this when asked if the government had a 60-minute commute as a target.
“I’d love to be able to do it but you’re looking at billions and not millions of dollars in terms of expenditure,” Mr Constance said.
“We know that there’s a real challenge in terms of the escarpment and that’s something which no government is ever going to be able to resolve.”
However, Mr Constance said the government was looking at other options to “speed up the service for people”, which included passing loops, signalling and alterations to the Sydney timetable to allow intercity trains quicker access to the suburban network.
Longer term, Mr Constance said Sydney’s new metro stations – which will run on a separate line – would take trains off the network and create a greater capacity.
More immediately, Mr Constance said the new intercity fleet with its faster top speed than the Oscars now on the South Coast line will make a difference to commuters.
The intercity fleet, due to roll out from 2019, has a top speed of around 160km/h compared to the Oscars’ 130km/h.
It is yet to be worked out how much faster the new trains will travel along the South Coast line, though given the terrain around the northern Illawarra, it is unlikely to be 160km/h.
“Over the next few years you will start to see a better run into town but we’re yet to determine the final timetable changes,” Mr Constance said.
Over the next few years you will start to see a better run into town.- NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance on the South Coast rail line
“When we do we are going to try and speed up the trains from our intercity areas, be it the Illawarra through to Newcastle and the Blue Mountains.
“We want to try and get those trains into town quicker, given that I’d prefer to see people on trains rather than on our roads.”
This article first appeared on www.illawarramercury.com.au