Sydney-Newcastle rail upgrade does ‘not appear to make any sense’, says union

By Tom Ravlic

Tuesday March 29, 2022

Minister for the Arts Paul Fletcher
Minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities and the arts Paul Fletcher. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The federal government has put $1 billion on the table for a faster rail upgrade between Sydney and Newcastle but not everyone is happy with either the funding commitment or where the upgrade is taking place.

A pre-budget announcement of multiple infrastructure projects for New South Wales worth $3.3 billion landed yesterday, with the largest of these being the upgrade of tracks between Tuggerah and Wyong on that Sydney-Newcastle rail route.

Other big-ticket items in the grab bag of infrastructure initiatives for New South Wales include an additional $352 million funding for the Milton-Ulladulla Bypass, $336 million for the Pacific Highway, and $264 million for an upgrade on the Newell Highway.

Paul Fletcher, the minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities, and the arts, said the aim of the rail upgrade was to “enhance connectivity”.

“The $1 billion commitment in this budget to boosting rail capacity between Tuggerah and Wyong, through the quadruplication of track on this corridor, will contribute towards faster, more frequent and more reliable services between Sydney and Newcastle — currently the busiest regional passenger rail corridor in Australia,” Fletcher said.

The $1 billion investment in the Sydney to Newcastle upgrade has baffled the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.

Mark Diamond, the union’s national secretary, said the federal government had done nothing to ease the reliance of people on imported fuel, and that the Morrison government had nine years to invest in better rail infrastructure.

Diamond said the upgrade, announced before the day treasurer Josh Frydenberg was due to deliver the federal budget “did not appear to make any sense” and appeared to be a move to shore up votes in marginal seats.

“Spending a billion dollars on extra tracks at Wyong will make little if any difference to travel times between Sydney and Newcastle, as the notoriously slow sections of the route are further south between Hornsby and Gosford,” Diamond said.

“A real plan to improve inter-city rail would involve identifying a new purpose-built railway line for fast trains, as was proposed by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group – a body that this government abolished.”


Infrastructure projects galore: it must be federal budget time

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