Freight rail access to Port Kembla (the Maldon to Dombarton Railway) is currently included as a priority initiative at the options assessment stage on Infrastructure Australia’s Priority List. Infrastructure Australia’s review of the project noted the project’s cost currently outweighs the economic benefits.
The proposed Maldon to Dombarton Railway is a 35-kilometre single-track rail freight line between the Main South Line at Maldon (in the Southern Highlands) and Dombarton (near Port Kembla), in the Illawarra region of NSW.
Construction on the line started in 1983 but was suspended in 1988 due to an economic downturn and the forecast growth in coal traffic not eventuating. By this time, around 25km of earthworks (such as major cuttings and embankments) had been completed and ballast had been installed. A bridge and tunnel portals were also partially built.
If completed, the Maldon to Dombarton Railway could provide additional rail freight capacity in and out of Port Kembla and the Illawarra, helping to cater for the forecast long-term growth in NSW freight when a future demand for passenger services may constrain freight. However, the existing capacity on the Illawarra network is adequate in the short to medium term.
Registration of Interest process (now closed)
In October 2014, Transport for NSW opened a Registration of Interest (RoI) process for the Maldon to Dombarton Railway project inviting the private sector to propose how they would construct, operate and maintain the line.
Submissions closed in April 2015 and Transport for NSW undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the two proposals received which included advice from independent experts. Neither proponent was able to meet the RoI evaluation criteria.
The RoI showed that the Maldon to Dombarton Railway would need substantial ongoing State Government funding and policy support to make it commercially sustainable and that the existing infrastructure is sufficient to manage the short to medium-term rail capacity requirements for the Illawarra.
Transport for NSW debriefed both proponents on the ROI outcome and will use this information to inform future options available for implementing the Maldon to Dombarton Railway project.