Wollongong could become a construction hub for the state government’s new intercity train fleet.
The Mercury can reveal Wollongong City Council has been approached by Stadler Australia about setting up a facility to commission, produce and maintain the new trains in the Illawarra.
Stadler – a division of Switzerland-based Stadler Rail – is one of four consortia shortlisted to tender for the supply and maintenance of the next-generation fleet.
The multibillion-dollar contract is expected to be awarded in mid-2016.
Stadler management has inspected Illawarra sites and is believed to have earmarked a location at Unanderra. The 17-hectare site – bordered by the South Coast Line, the rail line to Mount Kembla Colliery and the M1 Princes Motorway – is owned by BlueScope but surplus to its current needs.
Wollongong lord mayor Gordon Bradbery has jumped aboard the train facility push and pleaded the city’s case to the government.
Cr Bradbery said the proposed facility would be “a neat fit” with the city’s industrial landscape and the Unanderra site was “immediately available”. The site’s proximity to the port at Port Kembla and rail lines meant “we tick all the boxes”, he said. “We can get that rolling stock off the ship here, assemble it and then maintain it,” he said. If successful, Stadler has indicated up to 600 people, of varied skill levels, would be employed during the “peak assembly period” of its operations.
Council modelling suggests an additional 565 indirect jobs would be created.
“We can almost immediately take up the excess capacity for facilities there at BlueScope and we can also quickly absorb the skill sets of that workforce that has been made redundant in other areas as well,” he said.
“We want this city still to maintain its industrial and its manufacturing base.”
Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward has met with Stadler and said he was “doing everything I can” to bring the company and operation to the region.
A separate maintenance facility would be built as part of the project. Transport for NSW has identified land near the Main Northern railway line at Kangy Angy, on the Central Coast, as its preferred maintenance location.
“Given Wollongong possesses such sites as the one at Unanderra, I would urge the state government to consider this site as an alternative to the Kangy Angy site, which would ensure better value for money for the people of NSW, given the infrastructure that already exists at the Unanderra site,” Cr Bradbery said in a letter to Minister for Planning Rob Stokes.
Stadler and Transport for NSW were unable to comment, given the tender is yet to be awarded.
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