Claims this week the problem with our rail service might be far deeper than a timetable issue.
Illawarra First is a body set up under the umbrella of the Illawarra Business Chamber and they say it’s time serious money was spent to improve our public transport.
Executive Director Chris Lamont says it’s time freight trains were taken off the Illawarra line altogether, and the tracks and rolling stocks upgraded, so it’s a 60 minute commute from the heart of Wollongong to Central. And that’s great news for local commuters.
“We understand there is some work to be done in terms of changing the timetable” he says, “but there is a greater need for improved infrastructure.
“We need to have a serious conversation about the feasibility of freight on our line. We have been talking about Maldon Domarton since 1954. It’s probably time we make that investment.
“20,000 people a day leave this area for work in Sydney,” he says, “and the Illawarra will continue to grow over the next 20 years. Traffic is only going to get worse. We need an improved train system to get commuters off the roads.
“No freight trains and better tracks, with trains that can move faster across those tracks will make a huge difference to commuters. “
Chris says one option is to open the project to the private sector.
“We know there are unsolicited proposals for improvements to the freight line,” he says. “We believe this should be a discussion with the State and Federal Governments.
“Things are only going to get worse as our population increases. It’s a health and safety issue. We don’t want more cars on roads that are not capable of carrying them. We need to invest in our future and road and rail upgrades are essential for this region.
“We absolutely have to look at timetabling, but at some point diminishing marginal returns will set in and there will be a requirement for a more significant investment in the infrastructure that supports our train line.”
The dissatisfaction with our trains has been echoed by the Green’s Cath Blakey who says it took an hour and half to get from Sydney to Wollongong in the 1930s. That same trip today can take almost two hours!
Greens MP Mehreren Faruqi says instead of improving our rail line, the Government is looking at building the F6 link from Heathcote to the city. “It seems they have money for everything except public transport,” she says. “We need to invest in the Illawarra line, including track straightening and the construction of by-passes to bring the commute down to an hour.