A station for Kiama Downs?

History under the State Labor Government

Between 2001 and 2003 I pursued, with help from councillor Warren Steel and other concerned residents a Railway Station for Kiama Downs.  It was at the time that Electrification had been announced. The justification for electrification was to improve travel times to Sydney CBD.

Prior to electrification, state rail had commissioned independent expert transport consultants reports in 1993 and 2000 to look at rationalising station locations on the South Coast Line. Both reports recommended the closure of Bombo and Dunmore and investigation of a station for Kiama Downs.

The Sinclair Knight Buchanan consultant report, in a robust analysis, recommended the closure of Bombo Station and a new combined Minnamurra and Kiama Downs station.

The second report, by Maunsell McIntyre, recommended consolidation of Minnamurra and Bombo stations into a new station to improve access to the large Kiama Downs urban area, to reduce stops and improve travel times.

This report included statements that

* Stations need to be located at areas of greatest population density.

* Minnamurra and Bombo are poorly situated to service the growing populations in the area

*Minnamurra's low patronage levels are testament to its restricted catchment.

*Bombo Station access has a number of Highway safety issues.

A circular seeking support was distributed through the Downs areas and 200 tear off letters of support were lodged with Matt Brown, MP.

He then wrote to Kiama Council stating he " had reservations about Bombo Station accessibility and thus viability, once the Kiama bypass has been completed".  He also referred to the"population growth which has taken place in the North Kiama/Gainsborough area as making the placement of a railway station in the area a logical solution".

The Labor government's Joe Tripodi, refused a station and in letters to me provided laughable excuses, such as low population density, difficulty in crossing Riverside Drive, and that the cost of maintaining an existing station is considerably less than the cost of establishing a new station.

He also admitted that "we sold off the land that should have been a station".

There was no mention of servicing a growing community, improved efficiency, a station within walking distance, closing an almost inaccessible station, etc.

Electrification proceeded and platforms at the three stations that were recommended to be closed were extended , incurring wasteful costs. Improvements were however added at Kiama station for disabled access.

On losing his seat in the 2010 election, all of Matt Brown's  files were shredded.

I moved on and away and in 2010 the government changed.

Under the State Liberal Government

Barry O'Farrell, in March, 2011 became NSW Premier and in a visit to Kiama to open the office of Gareth Ward stated his intention to stop Government waste and build local infrastructure.

That has since amounted in local railway terms to moving Dunmore Station 400 metres north (instead of the 1.5km to the centre of population, recommended by consultants) leaving it almost inaccessible at the southern fringe of development.

There has also been an announcement to add 40 carbays on state rail land at Kiama, where sensible planning should have considered the vacant land as an alternative supermarket site, rather than the council trying to jam it on the steep, Shoalhaven Street carpark and old independent land. Parking bays meant for local existing shops will then be lost. 

Gareth Ward MP was approached for support in 2013 and he referred the matter to Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Transport. The response, supported by Gareth at the time, said that "the government has no plans for a new station at this time". She also amusingly said "The Government is committed to making public transport more accessible to our Illawarra customers". This response, in my view was more pollie talk and as pathetic as the earlier Labor statements.

Gareth Ward, after considerable pushing by me has now asked the Minister to consider an Independent Review and report and a response is awaited.

The hopefully independent report, if commissioned, will show that Bombo, squeezed between a beach and a cemetery with one direction access is serving a limited a population of 30.

Minnamurra serves a catchment of 855 persons and Kiama Downs a resident population of 4848, or 77% of Kiama's 6272 (reference  2011 census).

Kiama Downs and Minnamurra combined would equate to 89 per cent of the Kiama numbers.

Bombo's station was built in 1877, is an historic anachronism, built at the end of the line before Bombo tunnel allowed extension to Kiama and beyond, 11 years later in 1886. Today it could easily become a heritage quarrying museum and combined coffee stop for tired motorists, creating a both useful tourism function and a safety initiative for motorists travelling the Princes Highway.

If, and if ever, Kiama Council were to somehow acquire Bombo Quarry and turn it into a Business Park as was proposed in a charette that produced little but consternation a decade ago, and if thousands were to flock there by rail to work (a most unlikely scenario), it could be turned back to its former use,  but it would require significant  funds for a pedestrian overpass to access any new businesses that may establish in the decades to come.

Support by Gareth Ward MP

In a letter dated 27 August, 2013 to the Minister for Transport, the Hon Gladys  Berejiklian, MP, Gareth Ward has stated "Mr Mackie has been a keen advocate in favour of this idea for some time and has requested that this concept be once again investigated by the Government".

He has also stated"that the idea has merit and warrants further consideration" and asks the Minister"to investigate the feasibility of this concept and advise in due course of the governments position in relation to this matter".

Gareth was unaware of the community support in the form of the 200 written requests for a Station and in discussions, initially considered that Minnamurra was adequate for Downs travellers.

He was then made aware of the earlier requests and history, caused by the shredding action and has  now offered his assistance in relation to this or any other matter.

This will no doubt be the last opportunity for a full, independent  professional investigation and Downs residents are asked to provide their views to Gareth Ward & the Minister if they support an investigation.

See Page 11 of the October 2 edition of the Kiama Independent for a coupon to send to the Minister.

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