The future of rail in shire discussed

NSW Rail Museum chief executive Andrew Moritz, former Deputy Prime Minister Timothy Fischer and mayor Judith Hannan discussed Wollondilly's future rail needs. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis
NSW Rail Museum chief executive Andrew Moritz, former Deputy Prime Minister Timothy Fischer and mayor Judith Hannan discussed Wollondilly's future rail needs. Picture: Ashleigh Tullis

Experts and government representatives came together at a rail conference last week to understand Wollondilly’s transport needs now and in the future.

Guests heard the lastest thinking on the ways to improve rail connectivity and services around and out of the shire.

Guest speakers included rail advocate and former Deputy Prime Minister Timothy Fischer and deputy chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission Geoff Roberts.

Mayor Judith Hannan said she was “delighted” with forum.

“We set out what we hoped to achieve,” she said.

Cr Hannan said the council was advocating for the electrification of the southern rail to Picton, to get the Maldon to Dombarton line completed, provide rail services to Wilton New Town and explore the options for high speed rail via Wilton.

“We are now at the selling phase of our vision,” she said.

“We want to move into the achieving phase.

“We want concrete plans. The whens and hows.

“We want to plan for rail to Wilton New Town, we want to reserve the corridors and plan the parking stations.

“We don’t want what is happening in north west Sydney to happen here. We don’t want to build under-tunnels that costs six times more.”

Cr Hannan said within five years the council wanted to see Campbelltown to Picton electrified.

“That is a no brainer,” she said.

“People forget that we don’t need a new rail line there, it just needs electrification. We just need the poles and wires.”

Mr Roberts said the Western Sydney Airport could provide opportunities for the shire.

“Forty-two per cent of the total jobs in the western city are advanced manufacturing,” he said.

“In the case of Wollondilly, that could end up becoming advanced food manufacturing to export through Western Sydney Airport. All sorts of things that Wollondilly could position itself for. 

“I love the focus on rail. Let’s keep focusing on rail and the timing for rail is absolutely critical but we need an equal focus on how we are going to generate economic development that follows from the mobility in this part of the world.”

Cr Hannan agreed and was concerned that if rail was not built to the airport then Wollondilly farmers would not be able to export their agriculture product to the airport.

Mr Roberts also said the building of the Maldon to Dombarton line was critical because Sydney wouldl need a second container port likely in Port Kembla within a 20-year timeframe. 

“You can’t have a second container port in the Illawarra unless you build the Maldon to Dombarton freight line,” he said.

“If you are going to build the Maldon-Dombarton freight line, why wouldn’t you put a passenger facility on that line as well?

“If that happens, then Wollondilly all of a sudden becomes the captain of the entry into the Illawarra.”

Cr Hannan was pleased the Maldon to Dombarton line was discussed at the forum and said the line would benefit the “whole of southern NSW”.

Former deputy Prime Minister Timothy Fischer believes rail and roads are a core solution to Wollondilly’s development.

He spoke about high speed rail around the world and how other countries have integrated high speed rail and metropolitan trains at rail hubs.

The council has been briefed by organisations who want to build high speed rail from Melbourne to Sydney via Canberra and Wilton New Town.

Mr Fischer suggested there could be a high speed hub at Wilton New Town or Glenfield that allowed people to switch to a metropolitan service.

Cr Hannan said the council was contacted the day after the conference to further discuss high speed rail options for Wilton New Town.

She said the council would continue to talk with the premier and relevant state departments including planning and transport to advocate for Wollondilly’s rail needs.

The council will also continue to work with the Western Sydney City Deal members to get a good outcome for the shire.

“We want to continue the conversation and bring everyone on board with our vision,” Cr Hannan said.