Southeast Highway traffic jams lead to Adelaide Hills rail reassessment in heated forum

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South Australia’s Transport Minister Corey Wingard was heckled by disgruntled residents during a tense public meeting over transport failures in the Adelaide Hills.

Mr Wingard, who has ruled out re-establishing a passenger rail line to relieve pressure on the Southeast Highway, was among those who spoke to a crowd of over 200 at Mount Barker Monday evening.

The audience responded with boos and screams as he prepared the state government’s $ 10 million business case for the Greater Adelaide Freight Bypass.

“I faced a very tough crowd there,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Rush hour traffic jams are a common way of life for highway users on the section between Crafers and Glen Osmond.

This follows significant population growth since rural land – surrounding Mount Barker and Nairne in particular – was rezoned for housing with little supporting infrastructure in the past decade by the former Labor government.

Mount Barker itself has seen its population increase by 11,000 people in 10 years, which is only 10% of what is to come.

John Hill said more than 200 people attended the forum held at the Wallis Cinema Mount Barker.(Provided: Le Courrier newspaper)

Existing railway line usable

The forum was hosted by the SA Transport Action Group, Chairman John Hill said the lack of Park’n’Rides allowing commuters to park their vehicles and take a bus into town was an obvious failure.

“There is also what is called a railroad, but for some reason in South Australia we are opposed to rail,” he said.

Passenger service to the Adelaide Hills stopped in 1987, with today’s trains only going to Belair in the foothills.

The rest of the track, which continues through the hills and to Melbourne, was converted to standard gauge in 1995.

A diesel train on rails
Belair passenger service continued to Bridgewater until 1987.(ABC News: Eugène Boisvert)

Mr Hill said some people mistakenly thought this meant that new track would have to be laid to restore wide gauge passenger rail services to Adelaide.

He said the concrete sleepers were gauge convertible and could, in fact, support double gauge that would allow passenger and freight trains to use the same track.

“There are a lot of people in Mount Barker who would rather take the train than the bus.”

Mr Hill added that when the Gawler Rail electrification project is completed, there will be plenty of spare diesel trains that could be used in the hills, and even more when the Outer Harbor railway line is also electrified. .

He said the Belair line was unlikely to be electrified because of its tunnels.

“So you have this tremendous ability to move passengers along a rail line, which we don’t even use,” Mr. Hill said.

proposed upgrade of Gawler station
The electrification of the Gawler line has been in progress since its announcement in 2009.(ABC News)

Wingard will revisit the trains

Mr Wingard said that previously when he asked his department to consider restoring the line, he claimed the cost would be “$ 6 billion to $ 12 billion” and, at the bottom of the scale, ” might not even save time on public transport. “

However, how these figures for a 34-kilometer passenger service were achieved remains unclear, with the 1,420-kilometer Darwin to Alice Springs rail line costing around $ 1.6 billion before its completion in 2003.

Mr Wingard said he had now asked Infrastructure Australia to review the work of the department and “dig a little deeper into this”.

“When Mount Barker was built, so to speak, there was no real planning work, so I understand and understood the frustrations of people that this did not happen with the time, ”Wingard said.

He said the government is committed to planning solutions, starting with the bypass case study, but also a “rapid bus transport” plan and building more Park’n’Rides.

Dan Cregan Turns Up The Heat

In the audience was Glen of Wingfield, who said the tension in the room was “absolutely palpable” during Mr Wingard’s speech, due to his “inability to actually answer questions rather than just give his reversal. Politics”.

Kavel’s new independent MP Dan Cregan also attended the forum, having left the Liberal Party only on Friday due to what he saw as a lack of commitment to the Adelaide Hills.

He said he had become independent to create “competitive tensions in a very, very secure seat for the Liberal Party” because he wanted a “whole-of-government” approach to address the region’s infrastructure deficits.

“There is growth everywhere between Littlehampton, Nairne, up to Woodside, through Lobethal and in particular through Mount Barker of course as well.

“Restoring passenger rail services to the Hills is an issue that I have highlighted as vital and must be considered by the government.


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