A new report recommends calls for urgent action to address the doubling of commuter traffic and a massive increase of freight movements between the Illawarra and Sydney by 2041.

The report, undertaken by the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility, and commissioned by the Illawarra Business Chamber and consortium partners Wollongong City Council and Wollondilly Shire Council, calls for a new rail link between the Illawarra and St Marys in Western Sydney.

It is the most ambitious of three options canvassed as the South West Illawarra Rail Link (SWIRL) linking the Illawarra, Wollondilly and Western Sydney.

The $3.2billion dual freight and passenger line would be a 48-kilometre extension of the partially built Maldon-Dombarton line, and would connect the region with Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek, and a planned Western Sydney Freight Terminal at St Marys.

UOW’s Vice- Chancellor Paul Wellings CBE said he was “proud that the University’s SMART Infrastructure Facility has built a clear case for the development of this much-needed rail link to connect our region’s population to jobs, and importantly, bring those from all over Greater Sydney here for education, recreation and employment as well”.

Project leader Senior Professor Pascal Perez said work on the first stage of the line was urgently needed before the existing rail link between Illawarra and Sydney, the South Coast Line, reaches capacity in 2036.

Illawarra Business
Chamber Policy Manager James Newton (L-R), Illawarra Business Chamber Executive Director Adam Zarth, SMART Director Senior Professor Pascal Perez, SMART Chief Operating Officer Tania Brown

He said the benefits of building a second dual-purpose, electrified rail link linking the Illawarra, Wollondilly and Sydney were too significant to be ignored.

“There is an urgent need for work to start now on this link in order to increase local employment in the region, reduce commuting times and increase regional freight capacity to unlock the potential of Port Kembla,” he said.

“We calculate that these improved rail and road connections would contribute to the creation of 17,500 extra jobs in our regions by 2041.”

The report notes that the planned container terminal at Port Kembla would generate an extra 1.6 million road trip per year, and 9300 train paths by 2041.

This would be in addition to a near doubling of daily commuter trip from 26,000 to 46,000.

“The report strongly supports the immediate start of planning for the first stage, from Maldon near Dapto to Dombarton near Picton, including a train station at Wilton and connection to the main rail line,” Professor Perez said.

“Considering the population growth and increasing freight demand, we recommend that planning and design work start immediately so the line is operational by 2036, when the South Coast Line is predicted to reach capacity.”

The report, published today, builds on a study completed in 2017, which estimated that SWIRL would cost $1.6 billion compared to the $2 billion for an intense upgrade to the South Coast line.

It was the first report to recommend a dual freight and passenger line along the corridor.