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The New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth have officially announced a $1 billion project to speed up the movement of freight trains through Sydney.
Premier Barry O'Farrell and federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese headed to Hornsby in Sydney's north this morning to unveil the plans to upgrade the rail corridor between Strathfield and Newcastle.
The Federal Government will provide $840 million towards the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor, provided the state kicks in another $200 million.
Freight trains currently share the same line as passenger services heading north out of Sydney.
A curfew prevents freight trains from operating during peak travel times on the route, and freight is also limited at other times.
The upgrade is expected to speed up freight train movements, ease traffic congestion by taking 200,000 trucks a year off the roads and cut carbon emissions by more than 100,000 tonnes a year.
Work is expected to begin in February and be completed in 2016.
"This will make a big difference. A big difference in terms of economic productivity, a big difference in terms of passenger rail, a big difference in terms of jobs, with a thousands jobs created as a result of this project, but also a difference in terms of greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Albanese.
The Premier says fixing the bottleneck will have benefits for all rail users.
"The fact is that disruptions on this line can have an impact across the whole of the network. That's why this is a Christmas gift for Sydney and central coast and Newcastle train commuters," Mr O'Farrell said.
"It's fair to say this is a project that the Federal Government has been seeking state support for for a number of years.
"I'm delighted that we've finally got to the stage where we've signed the MOU (memorandum of understanding), where work will commence in February and the benefits will start to flow to the freight system, but more importantly the passenger network across Sydney."
But the agreement has been reached despite Mr O'Farrell making it clear his number one priority remains the North West Rail Link.
The Commonwealth is still resisting the state's requests to shift funding to the project from the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.
"Sometimes the most important projects aren't the ones that get the headlines," Mr Albanese said.
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