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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1392

Mrs WICKS (Robertson) (10:21): I rise to update the House on one of our key election commitments, to deliver continuous mobile coverage on trains from Wyong to Hornsby and wi-fi at the train stations. It is estimated that around 30,000 Central Coast residents, or one in four of the adult workforce, leave early in the morning and return home to their families late at night because of the requirement to commute up to four hours a day for work. This can add up to around 1,000 hours of commuting every year, as a recent NRMA and Australian Automobile Association report published in the Daily Telegraph found.

The report showed that in the time it took some commuters to travel to and from work each year, they could have built their own rally car from scratch or driven the entire Australian coastline, including a ferry trip to Tasmania. It is also about the same amount of time it takes to complete a university degree, fly to Spain or learn to play flamenco guitar professionally.

So, apart from fine-tuning our instruments, what can we do to make life easier for our hardworking commuters who head to Sydney or Newcastle for work every day? We have to create more local jobs, and that is a vital priority of this government, including the delivery of 600 new federal jobs to Gosford by the end of this year. But we also need to tackle the issue with better infrastructure. For drivers, this includes the completion of NorthConnex, the long awaited M1-M2 missing link, which is set to slash 15 minutes of travel time when complete in 2019.

For those who sit on train services like the jam-packed 705 from Gosford to the city, we presented a new innovative commitment at the recent federal election, promising continuous mobile coverage on the 60-kilometre stretch of track between Wyong and Hornsby, as well as wi-fi at the associated train stations. The coalition will invest $12 million in this project, making work time more productive, enhancing leisure time and helping our families and friends to connect during their commute.

Following the election, the government kicked this off with a workshop involving the Department of Communications and the Arts, Transport for New South Wales, Sydney Trains and many from the private sector, such as the mobile network operators who will ultimately take the lead in construction. They have started to face the challenges of this project, which commuters know all too well, because they see it out of the carriage every day. They include the picturesque but difficult topography, with mountainous terrain, river crossings and no fewer than seven tunnels, which will require a carefully designed mobile network solution.

There is also the coordination of access to land infrastructure and the scheduling of access to tracks to undertake scoping work. Councils, national park authorities, power providers and other relevant departments will also be involved. I am advised that we are on track to release an expression of interest in the near future. A formal tender process will follow this EOI period, which should wrap up by the end of the year. Detailed design work and construction will commence shortly after the conclusion of the tender, with funding to be available from the 2017-18 financial year. (Time expired)