Third Track

Third track

The Issue – how to make the best of a bad job!

This rail transport project through the heart of Pennant Hills will result in:

major traffic disruption during the 4 year construction phase

a narrowing of Yarrara Road at the Ramsay Road intersection

Yarrara Road trees replaced by grasses and shrubs

ugly sound barriers along Wongala Crescent

loss of the trees that made for a pleasant station oasis

changes to the station that maximise rather than minimise the impact

a station structure completely out of character with the area

a third platform addition, the rationale for which defies logic

a station more concerned about maintenance cost than user comfort

a new footbridge that is much less convenient than the old one

a freight train holding bay from Wells St Bridge to Wongala Crescent

increased exposure to carcinogenic diesel engine exhaust fume

increased coal dust from uncovered coal wagons

increased rail noise pollution, on top of existing intolerable levels

and for what, in a nutshell, to transfer “the freight train holding point to within 4 kilometres of Hornsby” (ref. the Epping to Thornleigh Third Track Project Overview– 2012).

The Trust has been liaising with the project office since 2013 to minimise the impacts, and will continue to do so.

 

The History

In December 2008 Infrastructure Australia’s first list of projects for further analysis included the Northern Sydney Rail Freight Corridor (NSFC) project, submitted by NSW with an approximate capital cost of $4.075 bn. In April 2009 the Australian Government announced funding of $840m within its Nation Building Program. Evidently governments chose the cheap option.

The public first heard about this project in July 2012 with the release of the NSFC Strategic Review Report describing:

– the objective as being to enhance the capacity of the rail network to be more competitive with, and reduce the impacts of, road haulage and

– the constraints as being the steep terrains between the Parramatta and Hawkesbury rivers, including the Beecroft bank, and the absence of separate ‘slow tracks’ for freight trains.

Of the 57 functional options identified 4 were chosen on the grounds that ‘they would provide sufficient rail network capacity to satisfy the forecast interstate container rail freight until approximately 2028’ and they ‘could be achieved with the least time and cost’.

The 4 projects NSFC projects were the North Strathfield Rail Underpass ($435k), the Epping to Thornleigh Third Track ($520k), the Gosford Passing Loops ($120k) and the Hexham Passing Loop ($25K), for a total cost of $1.1m including a $270k NSW government contribution.

In September 2012 the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was issued. This was the EIS that forfeited all credibility with its claims that there was an 80 space commuter car park at the Pennant Hills station, and that the on-street parking impact during the construction phase will be readily accommodated within a 400m radius of the station.

Within the EIS process what was initially a ‘separate track’ for diesel locomotive drawn freight trains (upto 1500m in length) become an ‘electrified track’ to also ‘facilitate use by non-stop electric passenger trains’. Beyond the EIS process, use by stopping trains was added and therefore the expansion in train station modifications and the consequential impacts.

Through 2012 – 2014 the Trust made a number of submissions on the EIS, and the subsequent Urban Design and Landscape Plan (UDLP) and Operational Noise and Vibration Review (ONVR). To be frank governments response has been minimal, and attempts to engage the support of Hornsby Council have been fruitless.

Conclusion – there are no positives for Pennant Hills in the ETTT and apparently the detriments should be tolerated ‘for the general good’.

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