Privatise Maldon-Dombarton rail link: Whitlam

The incomplete Maldon-Dombarton line.

The incomplete Maldon-Dombarton line.

NSW Port Authority chairman Nick Whitlam believes the Maldon-Dombarton rail link could be built by the private sector, which could then charge a toll to use the line.

Mr Whitlam, whose new role covers the amalgamated Port Kembla, Sydney and Newcastle port corporations, was speaking at the Shipping Australia luncheon held at Wollongong’s City Beach Function Centre on Friday.

The Maldon-Dombarton line would carry freight to and from Port Kembla, in turn freeing up the main rail line for passenger trains.

‘‘Nothing is more important to most regions than jobs,’’ Mr Whitlam said.

‘‘And here in the Illawarra the one project that could transform the economy is the Maldon-Dombarton railway.’’

Mr Whitlam said the government should not rule out private-sector funding to get the line built.

‘‘That government may well have other priorities for its capital budget,’’ he said.

‘‘Fair enough. In which case, I’d like to see them invite the private sector to finance the railway. We have the plans. We know the cost. It would take four years to build.’’

He suggested the possibility of offering up a 99-year lease, similar to what the NSW government did with Port Kembla, of the existing track in return for completing the project.

Then, any leaseholder could charge a toll for using the line.

The Port Kembla port lease is held by a group of superannuation companies but Mr Whitlam felt they would not be appropriate for a lease that involves the construction of the Maldon-Dombarton line.

‘‘I think that would be too entrepreneurial for super funds,’’ he said.

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