Wollongong and Illawarra to be part of high speed rail future

Wollongong and the Southern Highlands could be part of a high speed rail network connecting Brisbane to Melbourne, according to a Phase 1 High Speed Rail study MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones said this morning.

The Phase 1 Feasibility Study released today has identified two possible corridors roughly following the contours of the Hume Highway via the Southern Highlands and the Princes Highway via Wollongong and the Southern Highlands.

Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said, “This is great news for Wollongong and the Illawarra which could be part of the biggest nation-building project in Australia’s history no matter which corridor is ultimately identified.

“Of the two possible corridors described in the Phase 1 feasibility study, the Illawarra could be connected to a high speed rail line running along Australia’s east coast.

“Like the NBN roll-out, the potential to connect Wollongong and the Illawarra to high speed rail through our major capital cities will be of significant benefit to our future economic development.

“But it is important to emphasis that this is the first stage in a thorough, comprehensive process; but it’s a very good, promising first step”.

Federal Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, said, “I am delighted that Wollongong and the Southern Highlands, which is located in my electorate, are part of the Phase 1 findings of Australia’s high speed rail future.

“I can see great potential to open up the economic development of regions like the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands from the two main identified corridors.

“If Phase 2 of the study stacks up and one or other of the proposed corridors are included in the overall high speed rail network, this will mean better and faster rail travel and less congestion on roads which could all contribute to Australia’s future low-carbon economy.

“This nation-building project would secure the economic future of the Illawarra.”

Ms Bird and Mr Jones praised the role of RDA Illawarra in establishing a High Speed Rail Working Group at their request earlier this year, which had co-ordinated Illawarra community submissions as part of the Phase 1 Feasibility Study.

Ms Bird and Mrs Jones have requested that the RDA High Speed Rail Working Group continue to function as the main co-ordinating body to help the consultation process of Phase 2 of the Feasibility Study.

“There is still significant work to do to identify the preferred high speed rail corridor to connect the Illawarra to the network, but there does also need to be some hardheaded realism during the Phase 2 consultation process, Ms Bird said.

Mr Jones said, “We encourage the region’s businesses, unions, local government, tourism organisations and local community to work with Sharon Bird, me and RDA Illawarra to continue work in the Phase 2 of the study.”

The community is also able to provide feedback of the work so far by making submissions to the High Speed Rail Unit within the Department of Infrastructure and Transport through the weblink www.infrastructure.gov.au/rail/trains/high_speed/index.aspx