Fast train network green light for Port Macquarie business and tourism leaders

Courtesy state government.
Courtesy state government.

The inclusion of Port Macquarie as part of a fast train network plays perfectly into the city's plans to become a smart regional city.

Under plans announced on November 4, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says a re-elected Coalition government would start work on the network during its next term.

She denied the announcement was an election stunt.

Previous federal and state governments have raised the prospect of high speed rail connectivity between capital cities along the east coast linking regional centres.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's economic development steering group discussed the smart regional city planning at its April 2018 meeting.

Some of the objectives of that planning include, developing a regional city strategy, complete the CBD WiFi roll out, and, continue to investigate feasibility of a Smart Work Hub.

The NSW Business Chamber says the state government's announcement will be well received by the business communities in the identified areas.

Regional manager Kellon Beard says investment in improved rail connectivity will provide long term benefits for NSW.

“An expert in the field, Professor Andrew McNaughton, will lead a dedicated panel of experts and will provide recommendations to government,” Mr Beard said.

“Improved transport connectivity between our regions and Sydney will boost our state economy and build additional economic capacity, providing new employment opportunities and growth.  

"Rail transport is one of the most cost effective ways of improving transport connectivity for both passengers and freight.

“While fast rail between major capital cities has long been discussed and put in the ‘too hard basket’, not enough focus has been placed on bringing Sydney and regional centres together."

A rail trip between Sydney's Central station and Wauchope currently takes around six hours and 40 minutes.

The four routes identified are: Northern Route including the Central Coast, Newcastle, Taree and Port Macquarie; Southern Inland Route including Goulburn and Canberra; Western Route including Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange/Parkes; and, Southern Coastal Route including Wollongong and Nowra.

Port Macquarie is the one of the fastest growing centres in NSW and along with Coffs Harbour and the Tweed are a focus for population growth.

Janette Hyde

Another supporter of the concept is Greater Port Macquarie Tourism president Janette Hyde.

She says the decision is "monumental" and would increase tourism opportunities and business decentralisation.

"Port Macquarie is the one of the fastest growing centres in NSW and along with Coffs Harbour and the Tweed are a focus for population growth," she said.

"We are also planned as a smart regional city.

"It is great that the government sees the possibility of high speed rail and is investing in the funding.

"Obviously this does not mean that it will go ahead. But it is fantastic they are considering the feasibility study."

Courtesy state government.

Courtesy state government.

Port Macquarie resident Harry Creamer says he is wary of the announcement’s timing.

"I view this announcement as being timed for the March election and I base my concern on a similar announcement about regional rail services at the time of the last NSW election promising new trains," Mr Creamer said.

"Nothing has been heard by the public since that announcement nearly four years ago.

"For all we know, nothing is happening and we'll be stuck with old XPT trains and a nineteenth century track alignment for decades to come."

Mr Creamer said major infrastructure projects require both state and federal government input.

"There is no sign of that happening with the federal Coalition having very different priorities which are not directed to helping improve public transport in regional Australia," he added.

Despite his concerns, Mr Creamer said the project is widely recognised as a desirable and exciting project.

Mr Beard described the project as a game-changer for the regions and would provide an opportunity to transform transport, encourage population growth and diversify regional economies.