A recent front page of the Mt Barker Courier (21 Feb 2018) canvased a fast rail service to the Adelaide Hills and Southern Fleurieu from the Adelaide CBD. The headline idea is for a $1B fast rail service that could take passengers from Mt Barker to the city in 20 minutes following a new route through the Brownhill Creek area and down the centre of the Freeway with stops at Stirling and Hahndorf. It could then continue to Strathalbyn and then Victor Harbour and/or Murray Bridge.
While the $1B price tag is fanciful there is a lot of merit in the idea of bringing a passenger train back to the Hills. The article also canvassed slower but cheaper options costing between $50M and $350M and providing incremental benefits.
For those of you not old enough to remember, there used to be a passenger train service along the current freight corridor to Bridgewater. This closed in 1987, mainly due to the length of time that it took to get to the CBD along the meandering track through Belair National Park and the Mitcham Hills area. There is obviously still a freight line through the Hills, but the new government was elected on a promise to develop a rail freight bypass of the Hills, taking freight trains of Hills lines.
This provides an opportunity to bring a passenger train service back into the Hills on or near the existing rail freight corridor using new tilting train technology. This would allow trains to travel much faster and overcome the uncompetitive time taken by the former Bridgewater service.
A new high-speed passenger train service to the Adelaide Hills with stops in Adelaide Hills Council townships such as Stirling and Bridgewater would unambiguously benefit businesses and residents of the Adelaide Hills Council area. As the article states, fast rail would “…deliver a “renaissance in rail” that could drive economic growth, tourism and affordable living across the Hills and beyond.” Along with reducing traffic from the increasingly congested South Eastern Freeway during peak periods, the rail service would boost tourism in the Hills and would link Hill residents with major regional service centres such as Mt Barker and Strathalbyn.
The Adelaide Hills Council must join with other councils (in particular Mt Barker) and the State Government to explore this proposal in detail and develop a full business case for a fast rail in order to receive Federal Government support and funding. The Federal Government already has an interest in this area and it is only through the complacency of governments in our region that there is not a serious proposal on the table.