Today’s state government announcement about a fast-rail feasibility study has been criticised by the Riverina’s transport advocates for its exclusion of the southern region.
Announced today, the study will involve four potential routes that premier Gladys Berejiklian described as “linking centres to each other and Sydney”:
- Northern line to Newcastle via Gosford
- Southwest line to Canberra via Goulburn
- South coast line to Nowra via Wollongong
- Western line to Orange via Bathurst and Lithgow
The government has appointed professor Andrew McNaughton to lead a panel, costing $4.6m, to advise the government about the best delivery of a fast-rail network.
Work will start by 2023 with an eye on upgrading existing rail corridors before building new lines.
However, Vanessa Keenan, Wagga City Councillor and advocate of better regional connectivity, said it was not surprising “that an announcement like this comes out of the government a few months before the elections”.
“It’s something they roll out regularly,” Cr Keenan said.
“It really has zero benefits on communities such as wagga.”
Cr Keenan said the study is still Sydney-centric.
“It’s really disappointing that this could’ve been an opportunity to really embrace improved rail for regional centres, rather than focus on Sydney,” she said.
“It’s a missed opportunity.”
It really has zero benefits on communities such as wagga.Vanessa Keenan, Wagga City Councillor
The investigation into the four potential routes are based on the government’s July 2018 report A 20-year economic vision for regional NSW, with one of the key elements being better connectivity between regional centres, and from cities and international gateways.
Dennis Toohey, executive member of Border Rail Action Group based that operations in the Riverina and Murray River, said the state government was “under a bit of pressure to emulate what Victoria has done”.
“With the fast rails to the Ballarats, Bendigos and and Geelongs,” he said.
While there is no route to the Riverina in this study, Mr Toohey said overall journeys would still be reduced.
“If Canberra benefits, there are indirect benefits to us at this stage,” he said.
However, he said the “excitement of today’s announcement shouldn’t make the government lose sight of commuting to major centres like Wagga and Albury”.
“Let’s increase the tempo on them,” he said.
Mr Toohey and other advocates said they would be campaigning election candidates about the matter leading up to March 2019.
“It’d take four years or so of planning and doing the business cases, as well as the argy-bargy between state and federal governments,” he said.
“Putting that aside, it’s a good medium-term plan.”
Today, Ms Berejiklian said the move was not an election stunt, saying the state government needed to take action and not wait for the federal government’s east-coast line between Melbourne and Brisbane.
“I’m not going to wait for other states and the federal government – we’ve waited too long,” she said.
A fast rail future for NSW
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