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Think tank backs $1b NSW fast-rail plan


A major business lobby group has backed reported plans for a $1 billion overhaul of rail services between Sydney and the Hunter that would pave the way for faster train services.

NSW will work with the federal government on the upgrade, with $500 million to be set aside in June 21's state budget, The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.

In the run-up to May's federal election, Labor pledged $500 million of commonwealth funds to a scheme to link Sydney and Newcastle, saying if it won government it would prioritise a link that could eventually cut travel time between the state's two most-populous cities from two-and-a-half hours to 45 minutes.

The NSW plan, focused initially on the Sydney-Central Coast link, will improve the Tuggerah-Wyong connection and include new electrified tracks, rail bridges over the Wyong River and station upgrades.

Work is set to begin in 2025.

The revamp will reportedly make it possible for express passenger services to overtake freight services and all-stop passenger trains, speeding up travel times.

Committee for Sydney chief executive Gabriel Metcalf on Saturday welcomed the move towards upgrading the link, saying a commitment from NSW meant state and federal governments were "now working together to deliver on fast rail".

"Getting on a trip from Gosford to the city in 25 minutes and Newcastle under an hour will be a game-changer for commuters, students and many others," Mr Metcalf said in a statement.

"It will reshape the geography of our city.

"As we emerge from two-and-a-half years of disruption and lockdown, this is a project that will get people inspired about Sydney's future and kickstart our economic recovery."

The NSW Labor opposition said the announcement came too late, following 12 years of "inaction and broken promises on faster, and high-speed rail".

Labor said the government had failed to act on the issue four years after commissioning an independent report to investigate options on high-speed rail.

"Dominic Perrottet is the third Liberal premier in 12 years to call for faster or high-speed rail before an election," NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns said in a statement.

"The people of NSW will take a look at this and say to Premier Perrottet ... you've had twelve years, this is too little, too late."

© AAP 2022

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