Build World Class Rail, Not More Roads

Concerned with the NSW Government's plan to bulldoze historic Blue Mountain towns to duplicate the Great Western Highway, today Abigail tabled a motion calling for a serious investigation to be undertaken into moving more freight to rail before proceeding with construction.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: I move:

That private members' business item No. 686 outside the order of precedence be considered in a short form format.

Motion agreed to.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:08:20): I move:

(1)That this House notes, as reported in the Transport for NSW, NSW Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023, that:

(a)"rail freight offers a fast, reliable and safe alternative to roads";

(b)"there are opportunities to improve freight efficiency by shifting some commodities away from road transport to rail, which is well-suited for transporting containerised freight, such as agricultural exports and construction materials, over longer distances";

(c)"there are significant benefits to increasing the use of rail freight in Greater Sydney, particularly in the face of growing road congestion";

(d)"investment in improved east-west rail freight networks and connectivity with NSW ports will be critical for maximising the benefits of Inland Rail for NSW"; and

(e)"heavy trucks were the 'key vehicle' in 39 per cent of fatal crashes in 2015 to 2017 and 59 per cent of serious injury crashes from 2014/15 to 2016/17".

(2)That this House notes that:

(a)rail is widely regarded as the most efficient mode of transporting freight;

(b)shifting freight off of roads and onto rail improves safety and eases road congestion; and

(c)the Great Western Highway duplication project will facilitate greater usage of the Great Western Highway for transporting freight.

(3)That this House calls on the Government to:

(a)halt construction of the Great Western Highway duplication until a comprehensive analysis, including socio‑economic and environmental impacts, is undertaken for an integrated transport approach to freight and passenger movements between the Central West and the New South Wales Coast, including implications and opportunities arising from imminent and planned State and Federal Government enhancements to rail freight capacity such as the Inland Rail freight line; and

(b)explore the feasibility of upgrading the Blue Mountains rail line to expand freight and passenger capacity.

 

According to the Transport for NSW report entitled NSW Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023, "rail freight offers a fast, reliable and safe alternative to roads". Many people would agree. After all, rail is widely regarded as the most efficient and sustainable mode by which to transport our ever increasing volume of freight. Yet it seems the New South Wales Coalition may have missed its own memo. Right now communities across the Blue Mountains, including Katoomba, Medlow Bath and Blackheath, are coming together to oppose the proposed duplication of the Great Western Highway, which would not only bulldoze those historic towns but also would expose them to convoy after convoy of B‑double trucks carrying freight to and from Central West New South Wales. Forcing those trucks onto busy roads is dangerous. TheNSW Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023 states: Heavy trucks were the 'key vehicle' in 39 per cent of fatal crashes in 2015 to 2017 and 59 per cent of serious injury crashes from 2014/15 to 2016/17.

Rail does not pose those problems. It is safer, cheaper, more sustainable and, if investment was made in the appropriate infrastructure, would be much quicker than transporting freight over long distances on trucks. Why then has the New South Wales Coalition and, by extension, the Roads and Maritime Services [RMS], pushed ahead with the proposed duplication of the Great Western Highway without considering the potential role that rail could play in carrying additional freight volume?

Throughout the consultation process the RMS has repeatedly told residents in Blackheath, Katoomba and Medlow Bath that it is not considering rail as an option. It is a clear example of just how the silo mentality that the RMS operationally embodies leads us to subpar solutions that do not consider the needs of the affected communities. It makes even less sense when you realise that a multibillion‑dollar rail infrastructure project, in the form of the Inland Rail, is under construction merely a few hours away from the Blue Mountains, linking Melbourne to Brisbane via regional New South Wales and facilitating a huge shift to freight being transported by rail across our country. Once again, theNSW Freight and Ports Plan 20182023 states:

Investment in improved east-west rail freight networks and connectivity with NSW ports will be critical for maximising the benefits of Inland Rail for NSW.

How exactly will the duplication of the Great Western Highway facilitate faster movement of freight between Sydney ports, the new western Sydney airport and the Inland Rail corridor in a way that rail could not do more efficiently? The community does not want this project. It does not stack up economically and nonsensically seems to be completely divorced from the broader freight strategy that the Government is pursuing. We are calling for a halt to construction on the proposed duplication that would bulldoze the historic towns of Medlow Bath and Blackheath until a comprehensive analysis, including socio‑economic and environmental impacts, is undertaken for an integrated transport approach to freight and passenger movements. The Greens stand firmly with the affected communities who want to see all the options on the table and for the expansion of freight by rail to be considered against the potential duplication of the Great Western Highway. I commend the motion to the House.

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