The Lower Hunter freight corridor railway route proposal released by Transport for NSW for comment gives residents, businesses and the community a trifecta of options to consider.
For those who take the time to read the 200-page document, it is obvious there are very few winners.
Clearly there are a high number of neighbours who will share a boundary with the selected route. This share will force many of them to swap soft rural vistas and urban environments for heavy rail infrastructure and a stream of rolling stock in a 24/7/365 operation.
This swap translates to noise, vibration and emissions as partners for life. In many cases, the new rail line will devalue their properties.
The proposal claims that a limited number of motorists who use the Adamstown and Clyde Street railway level crossings will benefit from faster crossing times.
However, the railway gates will remain.
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Boosting the passenger services as proposed as an option benefit will require the gates to be closed for longer than they are now.
While the document does not detail train data, it is highly likely that passes gained by diverting some of the freight trains to the proposed bypass line will be taken up by the extra passenger services.
For businesses wanting to benefit from the new rail line, it is very hard to locate in the document details of the freight movement. The origin and destination of the freight or the reason for the freight to be moved is not provided.
The prediction of "an additional 66 freight services a week in each direction will be required by 2056" (Section 1.1) on the Sydney-Newcastle line seems incredible growth in freight for an already choked corridor.
One freight train each and every hour of the day seems beyond belief. What happens to the trains at either end of the 30 kilometre new section? How will business access the freight trains?
The Port of Newcastle, businesses and local politicians must be shocked by statements such as "There would also be improved access to markets from regional areas, particularly export through Port Botany".
There is nowhere for the trains to unload or load in the Hunter, or details on how trains will access the port.
The Lower Hunter freight route proposal fails to consider the future needs of the Port of Newcastle. It is very clear that freight movement at the port will increase markedly, especially if the container terminal is built.
The proposal talks about the need to provide rail operators with cost-effective route and rail systems. But proponents select a corridor that is long, curvy and complex in design.
The proposal talks about the need to provide rail operators with cost-effective route and rail systems. But proponents select a corridor that is long, curvy and complex.
Surely the near straight line corridor from near Teralba to the old Richmond Vale line then to the established rail complex at Hexham would have been the most cost-effective long-term route.
There is little indication of the costing or travel times of the options presented. It is clear that some routes are very much more costly than the more direct routes.
The money saved could have built the overhead crossings at Hamilton, Adamstown and Clyde Street and removed the Booragul loop, greatly increasing the speed of the passenger trains.
Smartening up the existing passenger train corridor would also assist with the introduction of a fast train service.
Surely Newcastle is not to be dissected with a third rail corridor as part of the high-speed rail proposal?
There is certainly need for a new rail corridor to accommodate through double-stacked non-electrified freight trains on the Sydney-Brisbane coastal route through Newcastle.
Double stacking of freight trains will become the norm once the inland rail is operational.
There is, however, other high-rail infrastructure priorities, including the portside rail line from Carrington to Hexham via the edge of the Hunter River, the upgrade of the Narrabri to Newcastle rail line to double-stacked standards, and the replacement of the grossly inadequate Ardglen rail tunnel.
For the economic benefit of the Lower Hunter, there is certainly a need for metro-style services linking Hexham to Morisset via Maitland, Kurri and Cessnock.
It is critical that submissions pour into Transport for NSW. Community consultation ends August 31, 2021.
Rick Banyard is research officer for Correct Planning and Consultation For Mayfield
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