Forty minutes – that’s how much travel time South Coast rail commuters could save with new technology.
That’s the claim of business advocacy group Illawarra First and Illawarra Business Chamber CEO Chris Lamont.
Though it is a claim disputed by Transport for NSW.
Illawarra First’s claim is based on research into the South Coast line it commissioned and which was carried out by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility.
Mr Lamont said the research suggested that an improvement in digital signalling technology could allow trains to run both faster and closer together, without compromising safety.
“Investment in a European Train Control System Level 2 (ETCS2) on the South Coast line could achieve a reduction in travel time of up to 40 minutes on the return trip from Wollongong to Sydney Central on a direct service,” Mr Lamont said.
“Illawarra residents deserve an equivalent level of rail service to that provided to Sydney residents.”
Mr Lamont noted that the Queensland Government was introducing this technology on parts of the Brisbane rail network with the project due to be completed by 2021.
He said Illawarra First wanted the state government to address the issue of the 90-minute rail commute to Sydney for Illawarra residents.
He felt a trial of this technology on the South Coast line was a way of achieving this.
Transport for NSW said the ETCS2 is designed to tackle safety and efficiency and may not have an impact on travel times.
“The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority,” the spokesman said.
“We have already installed the Digital Train Radio System on our electrified fleet, and are in the process of installing and testing the Automatic Train Protection system.
“These are necessary steps which would allow us to consider implementing the European Train Control System Level 2 in the future.”
The spokesman said Transport for NSW had introduced measures to improve the South Coast service, such as pick-up only stops at some inner city stations to restrict access to commuters travelling further south.
“Our longer distance customers now have more seats available to them, and fewer stops on the four existing Waterfall or Cronulla services mean journey time savings of up to eight minutes for some,” the spokesman said.
He said future enhancements were likely to require a combination of measures to improve capacity, including significant investment in services and existing infrastructure.