During the 2010 federal election the Commonwealth Government pledged $20 million towards the conduct of a feasibility study into the potential for high speed rail linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, the viability of such a network, and possible routes. The feasibility study will be conducted in two phases.
My Parliamentary colleague, the Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones MP and I, requested that Regional Development Australia Illawarra (RDA Illawarra) establish a Working Group on High Speed Rail. The Working Group has co-ordinated consultations in the Illawarra during Phase One of the feasibility study process. The University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility hosted a forum on high speed rail on 7 September 2011 to discuss the outcomes of consultations in the region and to prepare for the Phase Two process.
The Phase One feasibility study report identified two possible corridors for accessibility of high speed rail to Wollongong and the Illawarra:
- Following the contours of the Hume Highway via the Southern Highlands; and,
- Following the Princes Highway via Wollongong and the Southern Highlands.
The Phase One report identifies the Illawarra region as having sufficient population catchment to be included in the high speed rail network.
There are some critical challenges to overcome in relation to these two identified corridors. A corridor directly servicing Wollongong would have substantial environmental and financial impacts primarily involving the environmentally sensitive Illawarra Escarpment. The Hume Highway corridor option has fewer geographical challenges. However, this would require consideration of appropriate modes of transport connectivity.