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We have seen a succession of reviews, plans and election promises of faster and better train services for regional New South Wales, home to one third of the state’s population, in recent years.
Yet little had been heard from the state government on track works to allow new trains to travel faster until April 29 this year. This was when Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a Sydney conference that serious regional development will need faster rail (trains moving at 150-200km/h on upgraded track with some straightening of track) and fast rail (speeds of 200-250km/h on new dedicated track).
The promised outcomes include Sydney to Newcastle by rail in an hour rather than two-and-a-half hours, 25 minutes taken off Sydney-Wollongong and Sydney-Gosford train trips and travel between Sydney and Goulburn in under an hour instead of two-and-a-half hours for express trains. Details are still awaited on which lines will take priority and the scope of this work.
These developments have been years in the making. In late 2018, the NSW government announced international expert Andrew McNaughton would advise the government how best to deliver a fast rail network to connect Sydney to regional centres. Four lines were identified:
The four fast rail lines connecting Sydney to regional NSW. A fast rail future for NSW/NSW governmentThis followed a 20-Year Economic Vision for Regional NSW (recently refreshed), which included a commitment to “make regional travel faster, easier and safer between and within regional centres, and to metropolitan areas”.
Transport for NSW also released a Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan in 2018. The plan outlined track work to enable trains to travel at higher speeds (with new ones now being delivered). This work included “reducing track curvature, deviations and realignments, removal of level crossings, junction rearrangement and better segregation of passenger and freight services”.
There have also been three studies of NSW track upgrades co-funded by the National Faster Rail Agency.
In the lead-up to the March 2019 NSW election, funding was announced for a limited suite of track upgrades on the four main lines linking Sydney to regional NSW. The government also raised expectations of a new line from Eden to Cooma and the reinstatement of the line from Cooma to Canberra.
This article first appeared on theconversation.com
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