A TRIP to Sydney could be just two and half hours by train under the latest fast rail plan to be proposed by the state government.
A western link through Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange and Parkes is one of four fast rail options to be considered by rail expert Professor Andrew McNaughton if the Berejiklian Government is re-elected in March.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said $4.6 million had been allocated from the Snowy Hydro Fund to also start investigating potential fast rail links to Sydney’s north (Central Coast and Newcastle), southern inland (Goulburn and Canberra) and southern coastal (Wollongong and Nowra).
The trains could travel at up to 250km/h and cut rail travel time between Bathurst and Sydney by more than an hour.
Rail Action Bathurst chairman John Hollis, who led the campaign for a return daily rail service between Bathurst and Sydney, said fast rail was the logical next step.
He said it was important for NSW to keep pace with rail technology changes.
“Fast rail has proved very successful in Europe and Japan, in particular, and delivers real transport competition for the airlines,” Mr Hollis said.
“Bathurst is a fast-growing region and a fast rail service that provides a link to Sydney that’s an hour quicker than what we have can only help Bathurst develop from a business and economic point of view.”
Mr Hollis acknowledged there would be significant engineering challenges in developing a fast rail link.
“But all the time we are looking at this the technology is improving and the NSW Government is getting a lot of experience and becoming more familiar with tunnelling through the construction of the North-West Metro Rail,” he said.
“Let’s take the idea on board, accept it and work on it as a way of developing Bathurst and this region.”
Bathurst Business Chamber president Angus Edwards also welcomed a new investigation into the feasibility of fast rail, but said the government’s timing could have been better.
“It’s unfortunate the announcement was made three months out from an election which obviously creates the usual cynicism,” he said.
“Our concern is that a study will be done and it won’t meet some government-mandated cost-benefit analysis and that will be the end of the project.
“But we need to see it as a positive step and recognition that having better transport links is very important.”
Mr Edwards said chamber representatives had taken advantage of last week’s NSW Cabinet visit to Bathurst to again raise the issue of improved road and rail links to Sydney.
“Sydney’s full so having outlying towns such as Goulburn, Lithgow and Bathurst as options for people wanting to commute would be a huge step and would avoid having to build more infrastructure in Sydney,” he said.
Bathurst MP Paul Toole said he was proud to be part of “a government that thinks big picture and has a vision for the future”.
He rejected suggestions it was all an election ploy.
“This government is already building major projects across NSW,” he said.
“We’ve put ourselves in a financial position to fund these projects and we’re getting on and doing it.
“I remember when I announced the $104 million road project at Kelso, when I announced the Bathurst Bullet and when we put money on the table for the second circuit.
“They were all projects people said would never happen that we have delivered for the people of Bathurst.”