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The Illawarra risks missing out on a slice of the $10 billion National Rail Program (NRP) because of inaction from the state government, the region’s peak business leader has said.
And while other states have upgraded links to regional cities, New South Wales bureaucrats instead produce “glossy photos” and “long-range plans” that do little for people outside of Sydney, Illawarra Business Chamber executive director Chris Lamont said.
Other states and territories seem to have got the message and are formulating their proposals- Chris Lamont
Mr Lamont said it was vital NSW fought for a share of the federal NRP fund to advance the South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL) – an electrified dual track carrying passengers and freight between Maldon and Unanderra – and to improve the existing South Coast Line to Sydney.
“The Australian Government and Federal Opposition have both indicated their interest and support for measures that improve rail connectivity between the Illawarra and Sydney,” Mr Lamont said.
“So it is difficult to understand why there would be any hesitation from the NSW Government in making a similar commitment, especially when there is potential funding on the table to fund part of the cost to improve the South Coast Line and construct the SWIRL.”
Old time infrastructure: The South Coast Line was built in the 1800s and trains manage an average speed of just 56km/h between Wollongong and Sydney.
Mr Lamont said the SWIRL could cut travel time from Wollongong to Campbelltown by 70 minutes and to Leppington by 30 minutes, boosting Gross Regional Product by $2.6 billion and providing 1,100 new jobs.
“Other states and territories seem to have got the message and are formulating their proposals,” he said.
“The Australian Government is actively looking for transport projects that connect cities to regional and semi-regional areas. However, in NSW thus far, all is quiet and this means there is a real risk that this region will miss out on funding on offer through programs like the $10 billion NRP.
“Regrettably, the focus in recent times at bureaucratic level has been the development of long-range plans that include glossy photos and statements in respect to the importance of strategic planning but are disappointing in respect to any plans regarding the delivery of rail infrastructure outside the city gates of Sydney.”
This article first appeared on www.illawarramercury.com.au
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