Fixing South Coast line costs billions less that F6 extension – govt memo

Building the Maldon-Dombarton rail line and other improvements to the South Coast line could be billions of dollars cheaper than the F6 extension, according to an internal government memo. Picture: Wolter Peeters
Building the Maldon-Dombarton rail line and other improvements to the South Coast line could be billions of dollars cheaper than the F6 extension, according to an internal government memo. Picture: Wolter Peeters

An explosive internal memo suggests the NSW government directed transport officials not to look at improving the South Coast train line instead of building the F6 extension.

This was despite the fact the rail line work could be billions of dollars cheaper.

The September 26, 2016, memo was prepared within Transport for NSW and claimed a new rail tunnel north of Thirroul and the construction of the Maldon-Dombarton rail line could cut travel time by a third – from 90 minutes down to 60.

It could cost as much $10 billion less than the cost of the F6 toll road.

The memo, released to Fairfax Media under a Freedom of Information request, said the decision not to compare the cost of the toll road against the cost of rail solutions “represents a serious and significant shortcoming of the F6 Extension Business Case”.

“In the case of the F6 extension, a diverse range of design and location options were considered, but only in the context of a tolled and untolled road-based solution,” the memo says.

“The existence of a cabinet direction not to consider other options must not preclude the consideration of public transport.”

The memo cites an earlier Transport for NSW business case for a series of rail improvements on the South Coast line – including the Maldon-Dombarton freight line, the construction of a tunnel through the escarpment and extra rolling stock  – would slash travel times for commuters.

“An option along the lines highlighted would reduce road congestion,” it says.

“The reduction in travel times of the magnitude considered would also have considerable wider economic benefits for the residents of Wollongong and surrounding districts.”

The cost estimates for each option are excised from the document released, but it says the difference between the two is of “a magnitude that cannot be ignored”.

The difference is “sufficient to construct the equivalent of almost three Snowy Mountains Hydro Schemes”.

The memo says the cabinet directive not to consider rail as an alternative is inconsistent with government principles and guidelines and “represents a fundamental shortfall in Transport for NSW meeting its responsibilities in achieving value for the state's taxpayers”.

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