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Northern Sydney Freight Corridor finally locked in

by Mark Carter last modified Dec 07, 2011 03:29 PM
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After a delay of almost four years an intergovernmental agreement has been signed between the Australian and New South Wales Governments that will see work start next February on a series of projects that will improve capacity on the North Sydney Freight Corridor (NSFC) between Strathfield and Hexham.

Northern Sydney Freight Corridor finally locked in

Coal Train on NSFC at Hawkesbury River; Courtesy GRMS MEDIA

 Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese today joined NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell at Hornsby Station for the announcement of the $1.1 billion suite of projects, with both pledging to work together to upgrade the corridor from North Strathfield through Sydney’s northern suburbs to Newcastle.

“At present, Sydney is the biggest bottleneck on the main line between Melbourne and Brisbane. The NSFC Upgrade project will ease this congestion by greatly expanding track capacity along this 160 kilometre long corridor,” said Mr Albanese.

“After almost three years of detailed planning and preconstruction activities, we’ve today pressed the ‘go’ button on a project which will help keep Sydney and Australia moving.

“Once completed in June 2016, the new infrastructure will lift the corridor’s carrying capacity by 50 per cent from 29 to 44 freight trains a day, helping to accommodate the threefold increase in interstate freight volumes that’s expected over coming years.”

Jointly funded by the Australian ($840 million) and NSW ($214 million) governments, the NSFC Upgrade will build a rail underpass at North Strathfield, lay a third track between Epping and Pennant Hills, install new passing loops near Gosford and construct a holding track at Hexham.

Premier O’Farrell said as well as reducing transport costs, improving the competitiveness of freight rail and boosting national productivity, the project will also deliver benefits to the wider community, particularly commuters.

“In addition to taking trucks off Sydney’s roads and motorways, this major infrastructure project will improve the reliability of passenger services,” said Mr O’Farrell.

“It will provide new passing loops and new track which will reduce the impact of freight trains on passenger services providing locations for passenger trains to overtake slower freight trains. This will be a real benefit for commuters travelling into the city from the Central Coast and the Hunter.”

“Commuters at Concord West and Cheltenham will also benefit from new easy access stations upgrades as part of the project,” Mr O’Farrell said.

A 20-year Memorandum of Understanding also guarantees more freight trains better access to the corridor while continuing to prioritise the reliability of commuter services.

The NSFC upgrades have been plagued by delays. While the exact scope of works was not spelt out at the time, the federal funding for the upgrades has been on the table for four years, and plans for an underpass at Strathfield had been floated several years earlier by ARTC in 2005.

Recent media reports have suggested that, despite the benefits in reduced truck movements and improved pathing for commuter services, the NSW Government has been reluctant to commit to the project because of the Australian Government’s (through ARTC) insistence on committed capacity levels for freight services.

While the works will provide sufficient capacity for the immediate future, in the past industry participants have indicated that ultimately a completely new alignment will have to be provided between Sydney and Newcastle, conservatively estimated at costing around $6 billion, or that a commitment to the Inland Rail Route will be required.

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