The Maldon-Dombarton Railway is a partially-completed 35 kilometre line linking the southern suburbs of Sydney, the Southern Highlands and southern and western NSW with Port Kembla. It was intended to alleviate congestion by taking freight off Sydney’s suburban railways and improve access to Port Kembla for regional freight. Construction commenced in 1983 but was suspended in 1988 after substantial work had been done. The works completed remain largely intact.
The 2006 - 07 Sydney-Wollongong Corridor Strategy released by the federal Department of Transport and Regional Services, with the support of the NSW Government as part of the former AusLink programme, noted that the Illawarra line which connects Port Kembla to Sydney faces an effective restriction on freight train operations during peak periods (0600 to 0900 and 1500 to 1900hrs) and that the Maldon-Dombarton line may be able to play a future role. It could "remove bulk freight from the Illawarra rail line and some other parts of the Sydney passenger rail network....".
In 2014-15, the NSW Government called for expressions of interest in completing construction of the line. The Government did not offer to make a contribution to the capital cost and although two bids were received, the government did not proceed with either bid. However, the project was on the Commonwealth Government’s Infrastructure Australia priority list in 2016.
In February 2017, the Illawarra Mercury reported that “The Maldon-Dombarton rail line has received a big setback, after Infrastructure Australia recommended it not receive federal funding” as it “would not justify its costs”. In earlier publications, Infrastructure Australia had noted the potential of completing the 35 km Maldon-Dombarton rail link to improve access to Port Kembla.
This brief evaluation appears to understate the congestion on the existing Sydney to Wollongong railway line. It also overlooked the increasing road congestion on the Mt Ousley highway. In 2014, the NSW Department of Planning gave approval to Boral to increase road haulage of quarry products from its Dunmore quarry, and stated that "Boral is unable to increase the amount of product supplied by rail …as it is unable to gain access to additional rail paths or utilise longer trains;…". Congestion, with associated pollution and safety issues, remains a problem.
A media report has criticised the State Government for choosing a much more expensive road development and ignoring the benefits of completing the Maldon Dombarton rail link and upgrading the existing line for more and faster passenger trains. The rail extension and upgrade would be $10 billion dollars cheaper than the toll road.
The South Coast line linking Sydney to Port Kembla is now operating at near full capacity during the day and for most of the night. The Moss Vale-Unanderra line, the current route from the Southern Highlands to Port Kembla, has severe speed-weight restrictions and involves extra distance for freight moving between Port Kembla and Western Sydney. Further, with the forecast increase in passenger services on the Sydney network, the availability of rail paths for freight traffic is imposing severe constraints on network access. Also by removing freight trains from the Sydney network and the Illawarra line there are significant environmental benefits to the adjacent community.
Completion of the line would ease congestion on the suburban train services. Without this railway, congestion on roads and railways will continue and only enormous expenditure on roads, which will eventually become congested too, seems inevitable.
People may wish to make their views known to the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, the Minister for Roads and Freight and local parliamentary representatives directly or with letters to newspapers.
Suitable words for a message could include ‘The Maldon-Dombarton Railway has been in a state of suspension for nearly 30 years. During this time, congestion on our roads and railways has worsened significantly for passengers as well as freight. By freeing the suburban system of much freight traffic, this railway would get freight out of the way of suburban trains at the same time as it offers a much more efficient rail link to Port Kembla. Please ensure that this project is given the consideration it deserves by the New South Wales Government, and is reconsidered by Infrastructure Australia in light of their recent hasty decision to remove it from their priority list.’
You can send a message to Andrew Constance, NSW Minister for Transport here. We suggest you put ‘Maldon-Dombarton railway’ in the subject line and choose ‘rail’ in the category box.
You can send a message to Melinda Pavey, NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight here. We suggest you put ‘Maldon-Dombarton railway’ in the subject line and choose ‘freight’ in the category box.
You could also send the same or a similar message to your local member of the NSW Parliament. These are listed with email addresses here.
Letters to the editors of newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald (email to: email@example.com) would also help to raise awareness of the issue. Some hints to help having letters published in The Sydney Morning Herald are available here.
Date Published: Monday, 3 July 2017 5:35 PM
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