Labor has pledged to throw its support – and $50 million – to the Maldon-Dombarton line, which would benefit both freight and commuter lines.
Visiting Port Kembla on Friday deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek joined with Cunningham MP Sharon Bird to promise $50 million towards the project, with a view to encouraging support from the private sector.
The same amount was promised by Labor at the 2013 election.
“In 2011 we supplied substantial funding to see the initial parts of this very important freight rail project begin,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Since we left government both the Turnbull and Abbott governments federally and the Baird government in NSW have completely dropped the ball on this very necessary project.”
The rail line has been priced in the vicinity of $700 million and Ms Plibersek said funding from other sources would be sought.
“We expect the NSW government to match that commitment with another $50 million,” she said.
“Of course this project will also require private sector partnership.”
Last year the NSW government called for expressions of interest from the private sector to build it, with no input of public money.
Three joint ventures were keen to develop the project.
“There is obviously private sector interest because the state government was able to get some submissions,” Ms Bird said.
“So we believe what is really needed to progress this is a strong signal that both levels of government want to see it built and completed.”
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said he was looking to get the Maldon-Dombarton line completed but declined to commit to matching the $50 million commitment.
“Transport for NSW is continuing to work with the Commonwealth to look at opportunities to fund and deliver the project including proactive engagement with the private sector,” Mr Gay said.
He also pointed to the expressions of interest process and the fact the line was prioritised in the Freight and Ports Strategy, comparing it to the “deafening silence” of the NSW Labor party when it was in government.
The 35-kilometre rail line is tagged as the missing link in the NSW rail network.
It would leave the main southern line near Picton, and join the Moss Vale-Unanderra line near Port Kembla.
The freight line would benefit industry but also offer a flow-on effect for rail commuters.
“Quite often when there are hold-ups and blockages and problems [on the South Coast line] it’s around freight movements that have caused the problems,” Ms Bird said.