The future of the Maldon-Dombarton freight line is up in the air after the government’s attempt to find a private backer failed.
The rail line, tagged as a ‘‘missing link’’ in the NSW rail network, and would offer a new route between Port Kembla and coal-mining districts, as well as direct freight access to western Sydney.
It would also remove rail freight from the commuter train lines.
In August 2014 Roads and Freight Minister Duncan Gay announced the government was calling for a registration of interest (RoI) from private companies to build the rail line.
After a long process, only two consortiums put their hand up.
In a letter sent to Illawarra MPs, Mr Gay said both groups had been knocked back.
‘‘After extensive consideration, Transport for NSW’s RoI evaluation committee found neither RoI sufficiently met all the published evaluation criteria,’’ Mr Gay said.
Despite previously stating the private sector would have to foot all the costs, the letter implies state government funding is now an option.
The letter refers to the possibility of ‘‘the development of funding solutions from the NSW government, Australian government or the private sector’’.
‘‘A potential source of NSW government funding is the Fixing Country Rail program, part of Rebuilding NSW,’’ Mr Gay said.
‘‘This program aims to provide funds for projects which eliminate network connectivity constraints.’’
In a letter sent to Mr Gay, Shellharbour MP Anna Watson was critical of the government’s initial decision not to put any money forward for the project, branding it ‘‘ill-conceived’’.‘‘It is clear that for a key rail infrastructure project like the Maldon-Dombarton rail link, it is crucial for the government - at federal and state level - to recognise that an amount of seed funding mist be part of the process for any future RoI,’’ Ms Watson wrote.
Federal MP Sharon Bird called on the federal government to say whether it would put funds towards the rail link.
“We need to know whether Malcolm Turnbull plans to invest any of the $9.7 billion they claim to be investing in infrastructure across the country in the Illawarra,” Ms Bird said.
“Will the Prime Minister continue to ignore the people of the Illawarra or will he put his money where his mouth is and look at options for building the Maldon-Dombarton rail link?’’