I recall some years ago, just before leaving office, the former Premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, drew up a 25-year plan for transport in the state, with an estimated cost of $180 billion.
The following projects were listed as part of this plan:
A Western Metro from Westmead to the city, boosting Parramatta as Sydney's second major employment hub.
A metro to the south-eastern suburbs of Randwick, Kensington, the UNSW, Kingsford and Maroubra.
A heavy rail link to the Hills District in the north-west.
The completion of the "missing" rail link between Parramatta and Epping.
A metro from Olympic Park to Hurstville.
A CityRail ''CBD relief line'' under the city.
''Radial transport links'' into Parramatta.
Astonishing as it may seem, there is not a country rail line in sight in the list published. The fastest growing regional area of the State, the north coast where it is estimated there will be 75,000 more people over the next fifteen years, didn't get a mention. The Casino to Byron Bay to Murwillumbah line that was closed some years back was absent from this impressive list of city proposed improvements.
As a commentator on all things rail, as well as being the Footplate Padre, a former engineman and written 16 books on railways, in time to come, a surprising number of rural rail lines that had been closed in years past will be reopened and at an enormous cost.
This is happening now.
One of the interesting aspects of Victorian Railways is that although some rural rail lines have been closed, a legal right on the railway reserve has been retained. This wise policy gives Victorian Railways an opportunity in the future to reopen such lines. One of these railways reserve lines in rural Victoria, In 2009 I visited the Springhurst to Rutherglen to Wahgunyah which is being preserved by the Stringybark Express Museum and Heritage Park association.
It is all there, Should this line be required in the future, the railway reserve has been maintained and the cost to revamp the entire section of railway would not be prohibitive.
There are real concerns in New South Wales that these same forward thinking policies are not being applied across the board and this north coast line is one that is creating grave concern in the region. For the heavy load railway that will be required for this north coast section of line, numerous bridges will need to be revamped or replaced, and much of the per-way will need to be realigned for high speed inter-urban trains.
There is even some thought that a totally new railway line will need to run directly north along the coastline from Brunswick Heads to Kingscliff and onto the Gold Coast Airport in Queensland. The Murrwillumbah section will function like a giant loop to cater for this population growth.
Queensland rail have their Gold Coast line down with the Robina to Varsity Lakes section. There is now light rail into the Gold Coast and the next step is to the Gold Coast airport. Kingscliff want it continued into the north coast of New South Wales all the way to Bryon Bay.
The question for many who have an interest in NSW railways, is whether there is any interest and vision other than the Sydney city rail network.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html