Community takes fight for rail to the Supreme Court
Rail corridor between Glenfield and Macarthur earmarked for medium density
Rail Trail boost to tourism - and local economy
Newcastle rail case may be long wait
Save Our Rail questions semantics argument over rail line cut
North West Rail Link corridor to extend through to Marsden Park
Camurra West to Weemelah Line Booked Out of Use
Rail Trail full steam ahead
John Holland Commissions Electronic Train Orders
Closure of Newcastle rail stations not technically a closure of whole line, State Government lawyer says
SOARING high above fields on 10 pairs of concrete pylons the bridge approaching the Nepean river, south of Sydney, is every inch the modern engineering marvel.
When it was built it was designed to be a key link in the new 35km Dombarton to Maldon rail link stretching inland from NSW’s third city of Wollongong.
A key benefit would have been to remove up to 60 freight trains a day from the existing line freeing up more space for passenger trains and speeding commute times.
But there’s a problem with this railway bridge that cost tens of millions of dollars to construct. There’s a gaping hole in the middle of it.
As either side of the bridge reaches the river, they both abruptly stop in midair with a wide gulf between the two ends.
It’s a bridge to nowhere with only a steel gate on either side preventing a passing sheep from plummeting off its high ledge.
Just downstream, an impressive bridge carrying a relatively minor road across the river’s gorge shows what could have been.
A transport expert has said “it’s a crime” the bridge was never completed. Today, the Greens told news.com.au the link was a victim of the “policy paralysis” of the major parties when it came to transport funding
On Monday, the future on this unfinished piece on infrastructure, in Wilton in the NSW Southern Highlands, again became a political football as long term plans for the state’s infrastructure emerged.
–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
The rail bridge never quite made it across the Nepean river when tools were downed in 1988. Picture: NSW GovernmentSource:Supplied
The NSW Government is hoping to bank more than $10 billion from sales of public assents to spend on new transport projects including a second tunnel beneath Sydney Harbour and the a new M6 motorway through Sydney’s southern suburbs speeding travel times to Wollongong, the Daily Telegraph reported.
But an internal document from Transport for NSW, reported by Fairfax, raised concerns that the Government was championing a new motorway to the ‘Gong at the expense of far less expensive rail projects.
The memo from late 2016 stated finishing the Dombarton to Maldon rail link, together with a new tunnel on the existing line, could cut journey times between to Sydney to just one hour and cost as much as $10 billion less than a tolled motorway.
Warning signs on the bridge at Wilton.Source:News Corp Australia
“The reduction in travel times of the magnitude considered would also have considerable wider economic benefits for the residents of Wollongong and surrounding districts,” the report is cited as saying.
On Monday, Transport Minister Andrew Constance blasted the report as inaccurate. Far from prioritising road over rail, he said, the Government had the biggest transport infrastructure capital works program in NSW including the Sydney Metro and Sydney and Newcastle light rail projects. The Government is also spending billions on road projects including the controversial WestConnex motorway.
“[This] is an email that has been cobbled together by some bureaucrat which is ill-informed of the cabinet process,” Mr Constance said.
However, Greens NSW MP and Transport Spokeswoman, Dr Mehreen Faruqi wasn’t convinced. She said it would be “outrageous” not to consider rail as a cheaper alternative to a new motorway and the Government had an “obsession” with toll roads.
“Separating freight and passenger rail is urgently required to speed up the public transport commute from the Illawarra. Labor and the Liberals have been in policy paralysis about finishing the Dombarton to Maldon rail link for decades.”
Labor accused the Government of having its priorities wrong. Shadow Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park, whose electorate the line would pass through, supported recommencing construction.
“It would be a win for the Illawarra but it appears that the Government has ignored common sense and opted for a toll road instead. It just beggars belief,” he told news.com.au.
Much of the rail line, seen here snaking through the Illawarra, was complete when it was axed. Picture: Nick WilsonSource:News Corp Australia
Work began on the new link under the Wran Labor Government in 1983. It was designed to create a more direct rail route from Wollongong’s port to coal fields avoiding the congested Sydney suburbs.
The incoming Liberal Government nixed the project in 1988 but not before $30 million had been spent on building two thirds of the earthworks, partially constructing a tunnel and half a bridge.
The new government claimed the numbers didn’t stack up on the rail line.
In 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed $25 million of funding to the link. However, the same year, a feasibility study found completing the line would cost $700 million and only create enough business to recoup half its coast.
But the unfinished rail line just doesn’t want to die.
In 2007, almost two decades after tools were downed, University of Wollongong transport expert Dr Philip Laird urged the Government to get on with the job.
“The right of way is there and waiting to be graced with track. It would be a crime not to complete it,” he said.
Avon tunnel, near Unanderra, was partially completed before it was abandoned.Source:News Corp Australia
In 2014, $21 million was spent on engineering studies on the route while the private sector was asked to submit proposals to complete the line.
But earlier this year the project was again knocked back with Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Melinda Pavey saying the line wasn’t a “high priority” and “would not justify its costs”.
She said the existing line had the capacity for freight and passenger trains, reported the Illawarra Mercury. Not so said Wollongong state MP Paul Scully. He said the line was “the most politically cursed rail project in Australia.”
“The dillydally shenanigans must end and the curse of this project must be lifted once for all”.
But no mention of the incomplete line was made by Mr Constance on Monday.
Rather a $2 billion new train fleet — some of which will run on the Wollongong line — would improves services to passengers while the new Sydney Metro project would free up capacity on suburban lines for more regional trains.
Whatever the merits of the unfinished train link it doesn’t look like the bridge to nowhere will be connected to anywhere anytime soon.
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
About this website
Railpage version 3.10.0.0037
All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all the rest is © 2003-2021 Interactive Omnimedia Pty Ltd.
You can syndicate our news using one of the RSS feeds.