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Wednesday, 11 February 2009
Page: 1008

Mr HAYES (7:53 PM) —I rise tonight to speak about and support the concerns of the Liverpool City Council and local residents who reside along the rail corridor between Casula and Liverpool, who currently experience excessive rail noise and who are concerned about the noise and the environmental impacts related to the Southern Sydney Freight Line. A major bottleneck in the rail freight network currently exists in the south-west of Sydney, where freight trains share existing rail lines with the Sydney metropolitan passenger services operated by RailCorp. To alleviate this bottleneck, the ARTC has begun the construction of the Southern Sydney Freight Line, which will provide a dedicated freight line for a distance of 36 kilometres between Macarthur and Sefton. This project is valued at about $300 million. The Southern Sydney Freight Line will provide a third track on the existing rail corridor specifically for freight services, allowing passenger and freight services to operate independently. Importantly, this project is designed to take trucks off our roads and to free up the passenger rail services. This has the potential to reduce future road infrastructure costs and to have environmental and road safety benefits for communities along these highways. Significantly, this project will generate jobs for the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney and will be of great benefit to the New South Wales economy in general.

This freight line is an essential piece of infrastructure; however, we must find the balance between providing this essential service to Sydney and the greater Sydney area and protecting the quality of life and wellbeing of local residents. I know from the many letters, emails and phone calls I have received from concerned residents, and from the emotional meetings that have been organised, that, whilst residents appreciate the urgent need for this project—in fact, most believe it is necessary transport progress—they are concerned about the existing noise levels recorded independently of the ARTC. It is not really a question of what the future noise is going to be when the existing noise is already rated above what are regarded as acceptable noise levels. They do not accept that they should simply put up with noise levels that will only be exacerbated by the freight line. They expect and demand the construction of sound barriers alongside this rail easement. It is simply about finding the appropriate balance between providing an essential service to the south-west of Sydney and protecting the quality of life and wellbeing of local residents.

I want to put on the record tonight that this project should not be done in a way that is at the expense of the residents of Casula. As a condition of approval, the ARTC has been required to prepare an operational noise and vibration management plan that would allow noise mitigation measures to be assessed against noise objectives. After completing these tests the ARTC is confident the freight line will not exceed existing noise levels at Casula. But, given that the existing noise levels are already excessive, I do not believe it is a question of whether the noise will get louder—it is absolutely beyond question that the noise levels will not reduce. The real concern is the overall noise mix generated by the rail now and into the future. It is obviously too loud now, without our worrying about what will occur in the future.

Whilst the ARTC does not have the legal obligation, as part of its current project, to address the existing noise levels, there is, no doubt, an opportunity for both the ARTC and Railcorp to examine the mitigation of all rail noise as part of this project. For this reason I have recently written to both the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads and the New South Wales Minister for Planning and Environment to request that they examine the mitigation of all rail noise as part of this project and the approval processes with the ARTC.

I intend to continue working with the local residents, including Leah Cain and Michael Russell and other residents of the Casula community, to persuade both the ARTC and the New South Wales government that noise abatement measures along this corridor actually make good sense. I say again that I believe this project will deliver significant benefits to our local community and will alleviate the bottleneck in the rail freight network that currently exists in the south-west of Sydney. However, it is most important that the quality of life and wellbeing of the local residents are not adversely impacted. (Time expired)