It is hardly surprising a call by state MPs for better bus connections between Kiama station and Bomaderry has been met with suspicion and a measure of frustration. The suspicion is that this is a prelude to scrapping the diesel rail connection between Bomaderry and Kiama – something Kiama MP Gareth Ward assures us he would never support.
The frustration is grounded in the sad fact that well into the 21st century the rail travel time from here to Sydney is longer than it was during the steam age. The maddening – and, in winter, chilly – wait for the connection between Kiama and Bomaderry makes what should be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world simply too long to contemplate. It should not be this way.
Planning is under way for a new bridge across the Shoalhaven to replace the iron bridge that was built to accomodate a rail connection right through to Nowra. Here’s the chance to rectify a mistake that should never have been made in the first place. The new bridge should be planned with rail into Nowra in mind.
While we applaud the great work the NSW government has done to improve the highway, we don’t think it should end there. Bringing the rail connection up to 21st century standards would benefit not only this region but would have the potential to ease Sydney’s traffic and housing problems. Imagine if people could live here and reliably commute to jobs in Wollongong and Sydney – and do so in reasonable time.
Of course, this would require more than a line improvement between Bomaderry and Kiama. The slow haul up the escarpment from Wollongong would also have to be addressed. It’s a difficult challenge but no one has ever argued infrastructure is easy.
Gareth Ward and Shelley Hancock are doing the right thing pushing for better connections in the interim. However, we urge them to start the fight for a modern South Coast line that will appeal to passengers, allow people to commute and take some of the pressure off our roads.
Mr Ward has demonstrated he can bend the government to his electorate’s will – the highway upgrade is testament to that, as is the flash newish railway station at Shellhabour Junction. The highway upgrade was expensive and difficult but it is being achieved in record time.
Decent rail should be an integral part of the long-term South Coast infrastructure plan. It should certainly not be an afterthought.