University students and unions have voiced concerns over the government’s slow implementation of the SmartRail program, and the possible privatisation of the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra train line.
The SmartRail program, released by Infrastructure NSW in their State Infrastructure strategy, aims to implement its first three stages over the next 10 years. The first stage would involve capacity upgrades to the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line, the second would also introduce a new fleet of intercity trains. The third would deploy automation, and implement programs to separate the services on the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line. The SmartRail program aims to improve capacity, frequency, and reliability of the network while increasing the frequency of trains throughout the day. The T4 Illawarra line is the top priority for these upgrades.
Wollongong University Students Association (WUSA) president Tim Piert is concerned the slow rollout of the upgrades will affect university commuters.
“When we have students coming to the university, especially from Sydney or further North, any increase in the number of commuters would be significant because there won’t be any expansions or upgrades,” he said.
While welcoming the changes, regular Illawarra commuter Ben White was also concerned.
“These issues need to be solved now, not in 10 years-time,” Mr White said.
“Students who travel to and from Sydney have to deal with congestion, some having to stand up the entire train trip. Providing more trains could fix that, but having to wait 10 years for a solution is ridiculous.”
Government documents have revealed the SmartRail program plans to separate the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line from the rest of Sydney’s rail system, which could provide private companies the opportunity to operate more of the city’s transport network.
Mr Piert said private investment in public transport system could financially impact commuters.
“Companies could raise fares and it would turn into a for-profit business unless there is some amount of regulation in place to avoid that,” he said.