After more than a century of work starting and stopping, there's a possibility the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale rail line might finally be completed, with the release of a feasibility study into completing the final missing link (Gulgong to Maryvale) showing positive economic benefits.
The concept for the Sandy Hollow-Maryvale line dates back to 1911, originally as a decentralisation project to tie-in with a proposed port at Port Stephens - which didn't eventuate - to link to service primary regions in western NSW.
Work didn't start until the Great Depression, as an unemployment relief scheme, which was curtailed during WWII before it was stopped entirely in 1951. This resulted in; approximately 95 per cent of the earthworks being completed; four of the five tunnels finished; and 16 major bridges put in place.
The project was revisited in the 1970s, with the anticipated expansion of coal mining in Ulan and the need for rail access to the coal loaders in Newcastle. However, an evaluation by the Bureau of Transport Economics at the time, effectively split the line into two stages; the 128km route from Sandy Hollow west to Gulgong; and the remaining 72km from Gulgong to join the Great Western line near Maryvale.
Ultimately the former would be built, linking Ulan to the Hunter and with the additional 23km to Gulgong included to transport coal to domestic markets. While the Gulgong to Maryvale route - pieces of which can be seen from the Goolma Road - would continue to sit dormant.
The feasibility study, announced in 2018, investigated the 'Maryvale to Gulgong Corridor Opening' and the potential benefits of completing the link to better move freight between the Central West and the coast. And the project has now been recommended for design planning in the 2020/21 Fixing Country Rail budget.
"I am pleased to announce the incomplete section of this line between Gulgong and Maryvale will now progress to a design and planning stage to complete the 72km missing link," Dugald Saunders, member for the Dubbo electorate, said.
"This work will include a detailed examination of existing infrastructure, its condition and accurate costings of building the link. This link has the potential to make moving freight between the Central West and the east coast easier, reducing journey times and connecting produce and products to new markets."
Another project assessed under the NSW Government's Fixing Country Rail program was the 'Kandos to Gulgong Line Reinstatement Feasibility Study'.
Mr Saunders said further discussions with industry and stakeholders will take place around the reactivation of the 93km Kandos-Gulgong link.
"More detailed work needs to be completed for this project, but the initial feasibility study has come back with a positive result based on committed freight volumes," he said.
- An Executive Summary of the feasibility study into both lines can be found at transport.nsw.gov.au/operations/freight-hub.
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