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Group calls on State election candidates to pledge support for rail upgrade

Illawarra Rail Fail

Community group, Illawarra Rail Fail step up their campaign ahead of the state election.

CANDIDATES have been being asked to pledge support for significant improvements to the South Coast Rail Line ahead of the State election on March 23.

Community action group Illawarra Rail Fail (IRF) have stepped up their campaign for improvements to the line asking candidates to support 11 pledges.

IRF have released the pledges (listed below) ranging from supporting a timetable review to the allocation of significant funding for new rail infrastructure, such as the Thirroul/Waterfall tunnel and the completion of the Maldon-Dombarton line.

The IRF’s Bronwyn Batten said candidates in the electorates of Heathcote, Keira, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama will be approached and asked which of the 11 pledges they are willing to support, with their responses shared on social media.

“Public transport has already shown itself to be a significant election issue for the Illawarra and we’re keen to bring it even further into the spotlight,”Ms Batten said.

The ask for pledges from candidates follows Labor’s commitment to spend $2.4 billion on the Wollongong-Sydney Rail Corridor, which will include projects such as track straightening and the removal of level crossings, as well as examining the feasibility of the Thirroul/Waterfall rail tunnel.

The Green’s have also highlighted their vision for trains every 10 minutes between local train stations, and have previously pledged support for a Thirroul/Waterfall rail tunnel.

Ms Batten said overcrowding is still a significant issue on trains.

Analysis of the 2016 census shows that 21 per cent of Illawarra residents work outside of the Illawarra and this percentage is likely rising.

Sixty-six percent of those working outside the Illawarra commute to greater Sydney.

“Adding extra carriages to the 3.24 and 3.54 services was merely a band-aid for a rail line in need of serious investment,” Ms Batten said.

The IRF has asked candidates to pledge that all passengers should have a seat 90 per cent of the time on journeys over half an hour and to support enforcement of services marked pick up only on the South Coast Line.

Ms Batten said inefficient timetables also plague the Illawarra.

While Labor has pledged a timetable review for western Sydney, Ms Batten said the same must be done for the Illawarra.

IRF conducted a survey of commuters in 2018 which revealed that 40 per cent of rail commuters in the Illawarra did not catch a train from their local station but instead travelled further afield – the majority choosing to drive to Thirroul, Sutherland or Waterfall.

Eighty-three percent of commuters who travelled to stations other than their local to catch a train would prefer to catch one from their local station if there were efficient connections.

The 2016 census data reveals that 65 per cent of Illawarra commuters who work in greater Sydney drive to work.

The IRF has asked candidates to pledge to support a review with community input of South Coast Rail timetables by September 30 to reduce wait time between connecting services, review express stops, and thus achieve shorter total journey times.

CANDIDATES PLEDGE:

  1.  I will prioritise rail infrastructure improvements over road upgrades.
  2.  I support a review of South Coast Rail timetables by 30 September 2019 to reduce wait time between connecting services, review express stops, and thus achieve shorter total journey times. This review will provide opportunity for community input.
  3.  I support the objective that all travellers should have a seat 90% of the time for journeys over 30 minutes.
  4.  I support capacity improvements when the new fleet arrives on the South Coast line.
  5. I support improving the number of services to intermediate stations to at least pre-2013 levels.
  6. I support allocating funding to upgrade the South Coast track to achieve travel time Wollongong to Central of less than 60 minutes. E.g. By replacement of slow speed points by high speed points, and implementing a deviation to follow the original 19th Century line between Waterfall and Otford.
  7. I support allocating funding for significant new rail infrastructure for the South Coast Line; E.g. complete the Maldon-Dombarton link, build a tunnel from Thirroul to Waterfall
  8. I support additional train services from Sydney to the South coast; e.g. departing Sydney around 10:55am, 11:55am, 12:55pm, 13:55pm and 14:55pm.
  9. I support re-deployment of the excess OSCAR sets to the South Coast line as a result of the Epping-Chatswood upgrade to metro trains, and the new fleet on Central Coast and Blue Mountains lines.
  10. I support the enforcement of TfNSW “Pick Up Passengers Only” Policy on all peak-hour south-bound South Coast Services.
  11. I support allocating funds to improve amenities for rail users such as lifts at Unanderra and providing toilets on all south coast trains.
  12. Your additional pledge
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About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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