No one can deny the incredible difference highway upgrades have had on Kiama. What was once a grimy choke point as cars and trucks trundled through the middle of town has become a jewel in the crown of the South Coast. But there is still more to do.
A recent announcement by Kiama MP Gareth Ward, about a trial bus service to connect Kiama to Bomaderry, has sparked a conversation about rail on the South Coast. This has been amplified by reports the mooted F6 extension could involve the excision of about 60 hectares from the Royal National Park.
There are two issues afoot here: the poor rail connectivity between Kiama and Bomaderry and the inordinate amount of time it takes to travel from the Illawarra to Sydney.
Our roads are critical infrastructure but so too is rail and it’s been left in the too-hard basket long enough.
South of Kiama, commuters are calling for the electrification of the line to its terminus in Bomaderry so passengers are not left waiting for up to an hour for a connection. North of here, they’re wondering why there has been no improvement on travel times to and from Sydney for decades.
There are compelling arguments for making rail improvements an important part of the infrastucture puzzle.
First and foremost, no matter what you do with roads, you’ll always end up in a traffic jam somewhere. Providing an option of better public transport will ease some of that pressure on the road network. For commuters it will also remove the hassle – and crippling cost – of finding a parking spot at the other end.
Better rail between Sydney and the South Coast also has the potential to ease the city’s housing crisis. With large new subdivisions slated for Dapto and the northern Shoalhaven, the option of a reasonable commute to a Sydney workplace might just encourage people to relocate. And that, in turn, would energise the South Coast economy.
Such an improvement to public transport infrastructure will not happen overnight. But it won’t happen at all if a start is not made at all. There is no better time to start the process than now with state governments coffers enriched by the sale of assets and the stamp duty bonanza generated by the property boom. So let’s keep the conversation going and tell our parliamentarians we want a 21st century rail system.