The region’s peak business advocacy organisation, Business Illawarra, has used a submission to Infrastructure Australia’s industry consultation on its ‘Regional Strengths and Gaps’ project to highlight the strong evidence base supporting the South West Illawarra Rail Link and to raise concerns about the downgrade of critical rail infrastructure in the most recent Infrastructure Priority List.
As the federal government’s independent infrastructure advisor, Infrastructure Australia, is charged with evaluating major infrastructure proposals and publishing a national Priority List, to guide their further consideration for funding by the Commonwealth.
Executive Director of Business Illawarra, Adam Zarth, said that unfortunately Infrastructure Australia’s February 2021 Infrastructure Priority List downgraded the priority afforded to critical rail infrastructure for the Illawarra, while recent research produced by Illawarra First has indicated that it should be elevated.
“We have taken the opportunity of the industry consultation to highlight the need to prioritise ‘Freight Rail Access to Port Kembla’ which was downgraded from a near term (0-5 years) priority to a medium term (5-10 years) priority on the most recent Infrastructure Australia Priority List,” said Mr Zarth.
“Our submission strongly urges Infrastructure Australia to revaluate its approach to this project and ultimately to address the impending freight rail capacity constraints through the implementation of a South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL).”
“Our October 2020 report on the ‘South West Illawarra Rail Link’, completed by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility for Illawarra First, provides a compelling evidence base for the construction of this vital rail link by the mid-2040s.”
“Infrastructure Australia’s de-prioritisation of the ‘Freight Rail Access to Port Kembla’ project is concerning given the long-time horizon for the completion of such large-scale infrastructure projects and does not take into account the Illawarra’s potential as a future energy hub.”
Illawarra First’s research, which has been provided to Infrastructure Australia, provides a thorough, considered and costed proposal for addressing the impending rail freight capacity issues that will face the Illawarra. The costs of inaction are severe and include:
- Rail network capacity on the South Coast Line to be reached by 2036
- Commuters into Greater Sydney rising to 46,000 (from the Illawarra) and 39,000 (from the Wollondilly) by 2041
- Port Kembla Container terminal (~2041) will lead to 49% increase in rail path demand and 21% increase in road trips between Wollongong and Sydney
“The future growth and prosperity of the Illawarra, and any prospective new energy sector, relies on transport connectivity being steadily improved in line with demonstrated need. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the SWIRL proposal in more detail,” said Mr Zarth