NOT TO CBD: Nor even to Broadmeadow, according to a federal government study, any very fast train would stop at Cameron Park in the Hunter. A HIGH speed train would probably stop in the Hunter near Cameron Park because it would be too expensive to put the rail line into central Newcastle, a study done for the federal government concluded.
The second phase of the $20 million study, completed by a consortium of consultancy firms, recommends a Newcastle stop on the east coast network west of Cameron Park, to the south of the F3 freeway and close to the Hunter Expressway and Newcastle Link Road.
The study, released on Thursday, put the overall cost of the link from Brisbane to Melbourne at $114 billion, with the Newcastle to Sydney section to cost $18.9 billion.
The Newcastle to Sydney section would take 39 minutes to travel.
It would be the third stage of the project and would not be operational until 2045, after track from Sydney to Canberra then to Melbourne was completed.
The route through the Hunter would pass west of Raymond Terrace between Thornton and East Maitland.
This would ‘‘impact’’ on existing urban areas, the planned Thornton North housing area, the proposed Stony Pinch freight hub earmarked for east of Maitland, and the Wyong employment zone.
The route would be $400 million cheaper than an alignment to the east of Raymond Terrace.
An alignment providing closer access to Newcastle would require ‘‘long lengths of tunnels’’ or the acquisition of many homes and businesses, which would come at such a great expense as to outweigh the benefits of a closer stop, the study said.
A station at Hexham was also considered, but the study said Cameron Park would better serve the population to the south-west of Newcastle’s centre and the Lower Hunter, once the expressway opened.
Ourimbah is the recommended station on the Central Coast, with the alignment to Sydney to follow the freeway.
The plan includes long lengths of tunnel, one 6.5 kilometres long, and a high level crossing at the Hawkesbury River, making the Newcastle to Sydney section the most expensive on the network.
High speed rail services would operate 18 hours a day.
Under a proposed service pattern, all trains would stop at Newcastle, except for some express services from Brisbane to Sydney and Melbourne.
By 2050, when the network was in place between Newcastle and Melbourne, 39.2 million passengers would use it a year, and 28 trains would run a day each way between Newcastle and Sydney, the report said.
By 2065, 47 per cent of passengers out of Newcastle would be travelling to Sydney and 25 per cent to Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
The study said the high-speed rail link would create economic activity and enable regions to accommodate some of the significant population growth forecast for major cities.
It would also bring residential areas closer to employment centres through reduced journey times, creating employment productivity gains.
For Newcastle, such gains could increase average wages by $720 a year, the study said.
The presence of a university augmented by high-speed rail created ‘‘magnet infrastructure’’ – pulling people and information to a place that may be outside of the normal bounds of communication.
There could also be new jobs in rail maintenance sheds.
Users face long wait for fast train service
SLASHING the rail journey from Newcastle to Sydney to less than 40 minutes would create vast opportunities for the Hunter and boost wages, but passengers should not have to wait three decades for trains to go faster, community figures say.
Regional Development Australia Hunter chief executive Todd Williams said a station proposed near Cameron Park made sense, rather than a city station.
He said there would be huge opportunities in ‘‘planning around a business park or some level of economic driver where the stop is, as we see in other countries’’.
‘‘Why wouldn’t we have some businesses out there located near the station and turn it into a hub?’’ Mr Williams said.
Property Council of Australia Hunter director Andrew Fletcher said it was important that the corridor was preserved so it could not be built out.
‘‘That’s the strategic planning job to be done – to actually preserve the corridor for future generations,’’ he said.
Newcastle federal Labor candidate Sharon Claydon said the ‘‘nation-building project’’ would open up ‘‘enormous potential’’ for regional Australia.
But she said the long timeframe and $114billion for its completion meant people may doubt it would ever be built, making it important that the corridor was preserved.
Newcastle federal Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott said the project sounded exciting but the government had to make sure it was viable before promising ‘‘another grand plan it cannot deliver’’.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan said there needed to be improvements to existing infrastructure and services.
‘‘The immediate question arises of does this [report] mean that commuters between Sydney and the Hunter region will be stuck with the same travel times for the next 24 years?’’ Ms Keegan said.
‘‘Or is there something tangible we can do now to get a faster system on the existing infrastructure?’’
NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the state government supported a fast train network but that the federal government had to supply the money.
‘‘If the government is serious about fast rail, it needs to show a commitment to the process but also a financial commitment,’’ she said.
Asked if passengers could expect improvements to Newcastle to Sydney journey times soon, Ms Berejiklian said the issue was part of work on the new CityRail timetable that would be released later this year.