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A confidential government report says a rail tunnel at Thirroul is the only way to achieve “significant” savings in travel time.
In July Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the Thirroul Tunnel was “buried on page 30-odd” of the 2014 Sydney to Wollongong Rail Corridors Strategy.
However, the Mercury has obtained a copy of the report, which mentions the need for a tunnel or significant realignment of the line between Thirroul and Waterfall on at least 12 of the 42 pages.
This has prompted Greens transport spokeswoman Mehreen Faruqi to claim the goverment has “kept the truth from the public” about the tunnel.
The report looks at range of options to save time on the South Coast line, but states a tunnel would account for 81 per cent of the overall time savings listed.
This was because the geography of the escarpment limited the options for substantial time savings.
“There are very few opportunities to achieve significant travel time savings other than to build a new alignment across that escarpment,” the report stated.
“The time saving cannot be achieved without the Thirroul tunnel.”
That was not on page “30-odd” of the report but on page seven. In large type.
While the costs of a tunnel has been blacked out in the report, it stated that, while it would be the most expensive of all options, “it also delivers by far the best value to customers in terms of travel time saved”.
Dr Faruqi said the government has lied about the benefits of the tunnel, despite knowing it was needed to reduce travel times between Wollongong and Sydney.
“The fact that the minister knew exactly what the report said, and what the government needs to do to provide time savings for the people of the Illawarra, but multiple ministers in this government have kept the truth from the public,” Dr Faruqi said.
“People of the Illawarra have been ignored and lied to for long enough. This is an opportunity for the government to come clean, admit to their deceits and prepare this region for the growth it is expected to see.”
Mr Constance did not respond but referred the Mercury’s questions to Transport for NSW.
A Transport for NSW spokesman said the report was an investigation into reducing travel times between Wollongong and Sydney and “is not a thorough assessment”.
“It is not an economic appraisal and has not been submitted to, or endorsed by government,” the spokesman said.
“It does not include any analysis of whether the overall project would deliver economic returns for investment.”
This article first appeared on www.illawarramercury.com.au
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