NSW to spend A$3bn on rail projects
A 10-YEAR construction plan that could see several new lines built in and around Sydney was announced by New South Wales Premier Bob Carr on November 23. He said Action for Transport 2010 commits the government to a statewide transport package which includes the expansion of the State's rail network at a responsible, affordable A$300m a year on average.
Top priority is being given to the 28 km orbital link between Parramatta and Chatswood, which NSW Transport Minister Mark Scully approved last July (RG 8.98 p503). On November 16, a consortium of consultants ERM Michell and McCottell Kinhill was appointed to complete an environmental impact statement in time for tenders to be issued by mid-1999. Construction is scheduled to start in December and will take six years.
Substantial tunnelling is involved, with some 80% of new construction either bored or cut-and-cover. Between Westmead, west of Parramatta station on the main line to Lithgow, and Camellia on the Carlingford branch, the line passes under the suburban business centre of Parramatta, creating a chord between the two existing routes.
The single line from Camellia to Carlingford will be upgraded, and thereafter new construction is required through Epping and Marstfield to Chatswood, where the line across Sydney Harbour bridge is joined. Interchange with the main line to Newcastle and northern NSW will be at Epping. Total cost of the project is put at A$1·4bn, so it will absorb almost half of total rail expenditure in Action for Transport 2010.
A$280m is allocated for completion of a 20 km deviation off the recently electrified line from Sydney to Wollongong, due to be completed before 2010. This coastal route has always suffered from severe geological problems requiring a number of small deviations, and 14 km of the new line will be in bored tunnel between Waterfall and Thirroul. Journey times will be cut by 20min. Electrification from Dapto to Kiama by 2002 will cost A$45m.
A further A$20m will allow Sydney's new light rail line to be extended through the Inner West district to Lilyfield.
Plans are less firm for a faster route between Sydney and Newcastle; 168 km long, this is provisionally costed at A$1·2bn. The existing main line features severe curvature and steep gradients, and the objective is to improve access to the Central Coast which lies north of the Hawkesbury River.
Stage One from Sydney to Warnervale, 25 km north of Gosford, is due to be completed by 2007 and would cut travel times from points north by 15min. Work on Stage Two to Newcastle is due to start in 2010.
The proposed link between Hurstville and Strathfield is a long-standing scheme which involves joining up and upgrading some existing tracks, primarily so that freight can avoid the busier parts of the commuter network. And finally, the planned Epping to Castle Hill branch will improve travel in an expanding outer surburban area.