NSW urged to create rapid rail network from Sydney to Newcastle to boost economic recovery from Covid | Transport
A rapid rail network linking Sydney to Newcastle could help weave the “mega-region” and spur post-pandemic economic recovery, according to an urban think tank.
But the NSW government’s strategy for the long-discussed initiative has yet to be finalized.
The Sydney Committee on Monday issued a statement to its members calling on the government to begin work on a Sydney-Newcastle rapid rail line and use such infrastructure to link the “Sydney sandstone mega-region”.
This is the larger region of greater Sydney and its surroundings, stretching from Newcastle to the north, Wollongong to the south and the Blue Mountains to the west.
He argued that the best thing governments could do to unite the “mega-region”, including for work and study opportunities, was to improve rail links.
For a Sydney-Newcastle trip, the high-speed train reaching speeds of between 200 km / h and 250 km / h could cut journey times from two and a half hours to under an hour.
The drive from Sydney to Gosford could take as little as 25 minutes.
This is different from the “high speed” train, which exceeds 250 km / h.
The Sydney committee said journeys of an hour or less were the “magic number” that encouraged significant interaction and travel between regions.
This would be even more important in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, given the development of hybrid working arrangements and the growing popularity of regional life.
The committee’s chief executive, Gabriel Metcalf, said NSW’s tunnel boring machine – currently used for Sydney Metro tunnel projects – will be out of service in 2026.
It was the optimal time to work on a Sydney-Gosford tunnel, he said, before expanding the rapid rail network to Newcastle.
“Connecting the towns of the Sandstone mega-region with the fast train means people have more choices – about where they work, where they live and how they get around,” Metcalf said.
“Better connections across this geography mean that we are working effectively as a larger global city, with more gravitational economic pull.”
The New South Wales government ahead of the 2019 election said it would develop a fast train plan focused on regional centers, including Newcastle and Bathurst.
It convened a panel of experts chaired by British rail expert Andrew McNaughton to give advice on the suitability of four routes: Sydney to Newcastle via Gosford, Sydney to Canberra via Goulburn, Sydney to Nowra via Wollongong and from Sydney to Orange via Bathurst.
The report produced by the panel has not yet been published.
A spokesperson for Transport for NSW said in a statement that the government had worked on its fast train strategy with experts and consulted with stakeholders.
“A strategy outlining the economic and social benefits of HSR in New South Wales is being finalized and, when completed, will kick off the next phase of this transformative regional development program,” the spokesperson said.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said ahead of the 2019 elections that she would like work on a rapid rail network to begin by 2023.
Berejiklian’s office has been contacted for comment.
No Australian passenger train has ever exceeded 215 km / h and the top speed of most lines is 160 km / h.
The Sydney committee hoped the government would finalize a business case for the high-speed train by the end of the year.