Upgrade and Reinstate Passenger Services on the Tottenham Line
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Sydney is becoming overcrowded and many families are now struggling to buy a home, pay exorbitant rents or even cover the cost to commute across the city. Sydney is rapidly becoming unaffordable, overcrowded and chaotic - and as Dick Smith said, "It's like termites living in high-rises". And now the Government wants to send new migrants to regional areas to ease congestion in these ever-increasing "termite mounds" without providing the infrastructure to support their arrival.
Decentralisation is the answer to many of the problems being faced in overcrowded cities like Sydney and Melbourne, including where to house new migrants. However, before people will consider moving out west, they need to be assured the infrastructure they will need to commute to jobs, go shopping and have a social life is already in place. Many new migrants will not be in a position to buy a family car and will be relying 100% on public transport.
Recently, the NSW Government announced a future 'Fast Train' service between Parkes and Sydney, which would enable people living in the Central West better access to the coast. However, there are no plans to reinstate connecting passenger rail services in the west to access that 'Fast Train' - so how do people get to Parkes to connect with that wonderful new service?
Passenger services on the Tottenham Branch Line were closed in 1974 and when that happened, all the towns along its route suffered terribly - people moved away in droves, businesses closed and basic services were shut down one after the other. Towns like Tullamore, Albert, Tottenham, Bogan Gate and Trundle all became close to becoming 'ghost towns' and each of those communities can now only boast populations of a few hundred people. On top of that, the new drink-driving laws are now making it near-impossible to visit a regional centre for a dinner out or a catch up with friends and family, which is forcing even more people to move away.
But there are big changes coming to the Central West in the form of the new Inland Rail Line which will soon be linking Parkes with both Melbourne and Brisbane. The Tottenham Branch Line also connects with Parkes (via Bogan Gate), which could easily bring commuters to and from that city for work and enable smooth connections with the new 'Fast Train'. The city of Parkes is on a trajectory to becoming one of the largest inland industrial and logistics hubs in Australia, due to its positioning on the crossroads of the Inland Rail Line and the main east-west Transcontinental Line. That city is also being earmarked as the logical site for Australia's first and largest Inland International Freight Airport - so there will soon be more jobs than people in this region.
There are also new cobalt, nickel and scandium mines opening at Fifield, (near Tullamore and Trundle) and there will be an immediate need for better transport options to get miners and other ancillary workers to and from work via those towns. And once these mines are in full production, there will no doubt be even more jobs available in all the towns along the Tottenham Line as new tech-mineral related industries, such as li-ion battery, electric car, fast train, aviation and space component production become established in the area. And it is envisaged that these mines will have a 25 to 30 year life span thus ensuring employment and raw materials for decades to come. On top of all these new job opportunities, a series of recycling plants could easily be set up in a number of abandoned bulk storage facilities which lie dormant along the line in places like Albert, Trundle and Bogan Gate. A passenger train is the most logical way to get all these workers to and from these future work centres without causing even more chaos and deaths on our narrow, pot-holed, kangaroo-infested roads.
Add to this the ever-increasing price of petrol to keep a car on the road and travelling by train makes a whole lot of sense - not only on the Tottenham Line but on other branch lines that have also closed, or been down-graded across the state - these too should be reopened, upgraded and daily passenger services reinstated.
The branch line itself needs an urgent upgrade so it can be used for the expected additional, heavier freight moving between these new mines, industrial hubs and Parkes and so it is suitable for safer passenger train traffic. But the cost, which is expected to be far less than that of the embattled Sydney Light Rail project or the two needless Sydney Stadium rebuilds, will be worth it.
If the Tottenham Branch Line was to be upgraded and passenger services were to be re-instated, it would breathe new life into all the towns along the Bogan Way - Tottenham, Albert, Tullamore, Trundle and Bogan Gate. New homes would spring up, new businesses would open and people would be able to commute to and from work in comfort and safety. And the Central West would become an extremely viable option for many first home buyers, renters and migrants from Sydney and other overcrowded, chaotic cities.
On top of all these benefits, a whole new tourism market would spring up, making it easier for International and Interstate visitors to experience the Central West in comfort, by rail. And these visitors would be spending their money in the towns along the Bogan Way instead of elsewhere.
By upgrading one branch line and reinstating one passenger rail service, which offered a daily commute for people living in the Central West, an entire region in western NSW would start to boom again. It really is that simple to get the Central West back on track.
Pictured: The now-dormant bulk storage facility at Albert, NSW.
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