F6 extension plan must also consider rail options

OPINION

My way or the highway: The NSW Government may not be properly considering rail options to cut commuting times. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

My way or the highway: The NSW Government may not be properly considering rail options to cut commuting times. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

The most interesting thing about Fairfax journalist Peter Martin’s F6 extension scoop may not have been yesterday’s news that the Government would consider cutting through the Royal National Park.

Perhaps, instead, the vital step in this chain was the memo from deep within Transport for NSW which Martin brought to light in April.

It said the department would be “foolhardy” if it ignored rail upgrade options when it came to efforts to cut the travel time between Wollongong and Sydney. And it claimed a new rail tunnel north of Thirroul and the construction of the Maldon to Dombarton rail line could cut travel time to Sydney by 30 minutes, while costing $10 billion less than the F6 option.

But lo and behold, we’re now told it’s either demolish hundreds of houses, or bulldoze a path though the “Nasho”.

And when Kiama MP Gareth Ward issued his comments that people who want to preserve the national park, well they should “talk to hundreds of home owners whose homes might need to be acquired”, it just all seemed a bit too cute.

Is the Government weilding a Morton’s Fork? (A dilemma with two undesirable options). More likely it’s Hobson’s Choice, where it appears to be a choice but only one thing is really being offered. Or Sophie’s Choice, where both options are unbearable but you’re forced to choose. 

In this case, both options seem to lead to the same outcome: tens of thousands of Wollongong commuters are disadvantaged as the railway remains neglected – while other options are pursued at substantial social or environmental cost. 

It’s no secret this NSW Government loves a motorway and public transport often comes second. But if they’re serious about cutting the Wollongong-Sydney commute, other sensible options need to be considered – for the state’s sake.

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