By: Satria Dyer-Darmawan and Harry Morton,
It’s 3:40 PM, the Newcastle and Central Coast train leaves Central Station in five minutes. The next service doesn’t arrive for another 30-minutes and the only way you’ll make this one is to run like Usain Bolt. Just as you enter the carriage “Doors closing. Please stand clear” rings overhead: you made it.
By now you’re sweating like a pig, and there are no free seats left for the ride. You’re forced to stand from Central to Woy Woy for over an hour. Your legs ache, your head is throbbing, and you’re unable to accomplish any of the work you wanted to catch-up on during the long journey, yet again.
This is the daily ritual for commuters living in the Central Coast and Newcastle region who travel to-and-from Sydney for work. A one-way trip can take up to two-and-a-half hours from Newcastle, and 90 minutes from Tuggerah on the Central Coast.
The line serves approximately 35,000 to 40,000 commuters daily.
High-speed rail could be the answer to these issues: enabling trains to travel at speeds in excess of 200 kilometers per hour.
This system would see Central Coast residents travel to Sydney in only 25 minutes, saving them 65 minutes to spend in anyway they like.
In 2014, Gosford Councillor Bob Ward—a Central Coast resident, and former real estate agent and financial trainer—held a motion to push for high-speed rail through Newcastle and the Central Coast. As a result, Gosford Council unanimously voted to pressure local Ministers into lobbying for a high-speed rail.
Two years later, high-speed rail landed on the federal government’s agenda, and “is a consideration, especially in the federal elections,” said Cr Ward.
“It’s a huge difference in travelling time that will allow those commuters to spend more time with families and be more refreshed.”
In addition to commuter benefit, high-speed rail may be the answer to congestion, and a benefit to Central Coast’s tourism industry, and community.
“At the end of the day, I see it being a great importance,” said Cr Ward.
Brian Alexander, a 61-year-old Central Coast resident and account manager in Sydney, is just one of the many residents fed up with the conditions of the Central Coast and Newcastle train line.
“[It’s] not a very pleasant experience,” Mr Alexander said.
“I find that the carriages are very old, some of them are very hot, they’re not very comfortable to sit in, and in winter they’re very cold. We normally get the intercity carriages which are very, very old.”
Mr Alexander would like to see the implementation of a high-speed rail as soon as possible, describing it as an “Absolute dream,” giving him more time at home, and provide better timing for employers.
“Obviously I would get there quicker, be more productive when I get there, and in general less time wasted doing nothing,” he said.
The 2016/17 Federal Budget allocated $14 billion to the NSW Roads and Trains services, however none of this funding will be put toward the implementation of high-speed rail.
“It is possible that a small amount of funding may be included in the budget to allow for further research into high speed rail,” said Cr Ward.
“The phase one review indicated that the first stage would commence in 2022, I have grave concerns that it won’t happen in the next decade, but the following decade is a distinct possibility.”
Sydney Trains representative, Hayden Donoghue, stated that the current Central Coast and Newcastle line (controlled by Sydney Trains), would remain as is, and that any federal plans for a future high-speed rail would have no impact on existing NSW trains or customers.