The much talked-about one-hour train trip between Wollongong and Sydney is being investigated by the NSW Government.
In an announcement leading into campaign mode for the 2018 election, the Berejiklian government said it would be looking at faster rail options on four routes if re-elected next year.
As well as the “Southern Coastal Route”, which included Nowra, improvements between Sydney and Newcastle, Canberra and Parkes will also be investigated.
The government has said it will invest $4.6 million from the Snowy Hydro Fund to the project.
High Speed Rail expert Professor Andrew McNaughton has been appointed to decide the most appropriate routes, train speeds and station locations.
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“The expert will provide advice to government on what is possible and what would be involved,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Both faster and high-speed rail options would be investigated, though the challenging topography of the escarpment is likely to rule out the latter option.
The faster rail option could cut the Sydney-Wollongong travel time from one hour 25 minutes to an hour and the Sydney to Nowra from two hours 39 minutes down to two hours.
“In the immediate future, faster rail would see upgrades along existing rail alignments and provide services of at least 200km/h, slashing travel times by one third,” Transport Mininster Andrew Constance said.
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Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said, in terms of infrastructure, the government was focusing on “upgrades and augmentation or a new rail line altogether.”
“What we are announcing today is that we will press ahead not only with investigating but delivering faster rail for our region,” Mr Ward said.
The government has already pledged $2.3 billion for the New Intercity Fleet, which will roll out on the South Coast line in 2021.
Mr Ward said that expenditure would not count against any possible upgrade to the South Coast line.
“No it does not act as a black mark,” Mr Ward said.
“If we need new rolling stock as part of this upgrade then we’ll get that new rolling stock.
“We’ll look at to what extent we can incorporate existing rolling stock on new lines.”
The South Coast line was put forward for federal funding under its Faster Rail initiative but was knocked back earlier this year.
Mr Ward said this would not count against the chances of the “Southern Inland Route”, citing other projects, like the Princes Highway upgrades, that the NSW Government built without federal funds.