A connected region

A connected region

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A man and a woman walking on the street
Newcastle, Lower Hunter and Greater Newcastle City
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A 20-year vision: A connected Six Cities Region delivers universal high speed digital access for all residents. The city region’s three sea ports and three international airports operate as a system of global economic gateways. In the long term, fast rail connects our coastal cities to the north and south, intersecting in the Central River City, based on a prioritised and staged series of network enhancements and smart technology, supporting job and housing distribution.

Digital and physical connectivity will underpin the success of the Six Cities Region. People must be connected within and between the six cities: to each other, to place, to physical and social infrastructure, to local centres and neighbourhoods, to Country, to the world. Existing relationships and connections must be strengthened, and new ones built, coming together as a highly networked region.

A staged approach

The Commission is recommending a staged approach to connectivity in the region. This can be delivered in the short term through digital connectivity and in the medium term through improving freight movements to take advantage of the economic gateways of the Six Cities Region. Over the longer term, the fast rail network can be rolled out, with work commencing in the short term to support a staged delivery.

An integrated road, rail and freight system

An integrated and efficient road, rail and freight system will be critical for our region’s competitiveness. Since the release of the 2018 Greater Sydney Region Plan, significant foundational work has been delivered. The Commission will work with Transport for NSW to ensure NSW’s freight strategy maximises the benefits of a joined-up Six Cities Region.

Improved connectivity within the broader region, as well as to our ports and airports, are required to improve access to international markets. These gateways also need to support the increasing volume of freight movements and address the vulnerabilities in global markets and changing customer expectations revealed by the pandemic.

Our ports and airports need to work as a system so we can integrate our freight network and make better use of existing infrastructure. Industrial lands are needed to support population and economic growth. They should be retained near trade gateways to safeguard freight and logistics capacity and support efficient operations.

Improving public transport links

Planning for fast rail, new metro links and improved bus services will connect communities within and between cities so that people and goods can travel across the Six Cities Region in a safe, sustainable and convenient way. This will link people to amenities and enable important social ties between family, friends and communities. Improved transport connections will improve access to jobs and the region’s productivity, as well as reducing our total carbon emissions.

A whole world of opportunity is opened up by better transport and digital connections. We’ll have stronger links to international and domestic markets and be more attractive to workforce talent.
Geoff Roberts AM - Chief Commissioner
Tallawong metro station
Tallawong Metro Station, Central River City

Universal digital access

COVID-19 highlighted the inequality that exists for people and businesses, and the urgent need for investment in digital infrastructure to close the digital divide. The Australian Digital Inclusion Index measures the access to, affordability, and digital ability of technology. It found major inconsistencies of connection across the six cities. If equal access to digital connectivity with smart technology is not delivered across the Six Cities Region in the short term, we will have lost a critical window of opportunity to provide residents with an essential access point for economic and social participation.

The digital connectivity that sustained us during COVID-19 will continue to grow in importance. It will enable the development of smart city technology across the whole region that will make fixed and mobile digital and physical mobility more efficient, productive and sustainable. By fully participating in the digital economy, we will be in a better position to attract talent and investment to the Six Cites Region.

Improved digital connectivity is a critical component of the NSW State Infrastructure Strategy, and the Smart Places Program, which includes supporting investment in digital connectivity in State sponsored precincts.

Progressing this Region Shaper

2.1 The Region Plan will support the recommendation of the State Infrastructure Strategy to adopt a targeted and sequenced State digital connectivity enablement investment program, commencing with high-priority precincts in each of the six cities.

2.2 The Commission will work with NSW Government, local councils, the private sector and the Federal Government to prioritise increased digital connectivity in these locations.

2.3 The Region and City Plans will identify locations with low rates of digital connectivity, and where higher speed or increased connectivity would support innovation districts.

Linking freight, ports and airports for economic growth

A robust and connected freight system is key to maximising our existing strategic advantages. The safe, productive and sustainable movement of freight within our Six Cities Region and between NSW and international ports, airports and logistics hubs will provide local opportunities and grow the NSW economy.

New and upgraded connecting infrastructure is required to support the future needs of Port Botany, Port Kembla and the Port of Newcastle as well as Kingsford Smith Airport, Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport and Newcastle Airport and their surrounding areas. The Commission will work with Transport for NSW to identify other missing links in the freight network.

Aerial photo of a port in the Six Cities Region
Port Botany, Eastern Harbour City

The Six Cities Region enjoys the benefits of three deep-sea ports. Port Botany will be the main container port for the near future. Port Kembla is planned to be the future second container terminal to support long-term demand and the resilience of the Six Cities Region’s freight network. Port of Newcastle will continue its global role in energy exports as it transitions from coal to hydrogen, as well as grows and diversifies its trade base over the next 20 years.

The development of a new rail connection to Western Sydney is a crucial link that would support additional rail freight capacity in and out of Port Kembla and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven City.

There are at least nine existing airports in the Six Cities Region: three international passenger airports, three defence bases and three general aviation airports. It is crucial to strategically plan for the passengers that use the region’s airports, the businesses that co-locate near them, and the freight that will pass through them. As the aviation industry moves towards net zero emissions, strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of our airports are needed.

There’s a real opportunity to integrate existing infrastructure between our ports, airports and freight so they genuinely work as a system.
Geoff Roberts AM - Chief Commissioner

The Six Cities Region has an immediate opportunity to grow the international and domestic passenger markets and improve air freight for markets to the north, particularly to areas where we have a free trade agreement.

The opening of the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport in 2026 will be a game changer for the Six Cities Region. It offers a significant opportunity to transform the aviation sector and better connect our people and air freight to the rest of the world.

Progressing this Region Shaper

2.4 The Commission will work with Transport for NSW on six cities airports and ports strategies for integration in the Region and City Plans.

2.5 The Commission will work with Transport for NSW to consider the land use and spatial implications of the freight, ports and airport strategies.

Fast rail

Fast rail has the potential to be among the most important Region Shapers, transforming settlement, jobs and enabling a truly polycentric city region.

Already, COVID-19 has accelerated the existing trend for residents to live and work in outer metropolitan areas, and with hybrid and remote working trends for many workers here to stay, our transport connections need to reflect this new reality. It is vital that our six cities are connected via fast, reliable and efficient rail to realise our vision.

    City making benefits of fast rail - delivering the connected Six Cities Region
    • Faster and more reliable journey times would bring businesses and communities together, providing more opportunities for industry specialisation, employment matching and productivity, improving access to jobs while providing better opportunities for employers to recruit and retain talent.
    • Improved transport connections would support opportunities to grow housing supply in accessible high amenity areas.
    • Improved transport connections would alleviate development pressure on environmentally constrained locations, reducing risk of housing in climate vulnerable areas.
    • Increased supply and diversity of housing would provide more affordable homes and better lifestyles for our communities.
    • More equitable access to employment, services and opportunities would drastically improve quality of life for marginalised communities.
    • Faster and easier access to cultural and recreational activities would boost quality of life, domestic and international tourism, the 24-hour economy, and the service industry.
    • A prosperous and vibrant economy in the main cities would have positive impacts to hinterland and surrounding suburbs and rural areas.
    • An interconnected network of cities and communities with a larger diversity of economic, cultural and civic opportunities would make NSW a bigger player in the global market, attracting global talent and investment.
    • Connecting and optimising use of our economic gateways would create better access to domestic and international markets.
    • Improved transport connections would enable more of our population would have better access to education and training, supporting a highly skilled workforce.

    Detailed investigations and business cases produced over time will optimise the fast rail strategy and should also consider the city-building benefits set out above.

    Delivering a fast rail network

    The NSW Government is working towards delivering a fast rail network by 2056. This network will connect the six cities as well as other key regional centres, and the nation’s capital, Canberra. The NSW Government will confirm the delivery model, as well as staging, financing and value for money, through the business case process.

    A dedicated fast rail line from Newcastle to Wollongong would serve the Hunter, Central Coast, Greater Sydney, and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, with an extension connecting Greater Macarthur to the Southern Highlands, Southern Tablelands and Canberra regions.

    The Region Plan and our six City Plans will support the delivery of a holistic strategy for fast rail that considers complementary infrastructure and non-infrastructure policies. The Commission encourages the delivery of fast rail to have a mission and objectives which recognise fast rail’s city and place-shaping potential, as well as its connectivity function.

    The State Infrastructure Strategy calls for the government to progressively fund and deliver the fast rail Strategy based on a prioritised and staged program of network enhancements. It encourages government as an immediate priority to define stages and sequencing for the delivery of the fast rail Strategy that considers demand and economic development objectives.

    Progressing the Northern Corridor

    The 2022-23 NSW State Budget includes previously committed funding of $275 million over four years for further detailed planning and to commence early works of the Fast Rail Network. Further funding for the delivery of future stages is subject to agreement with the Federal Government.

    Express coach services will serve the coastal communities between Port Macquarie and Newcastle, complementing existing rail services that will continue to serve inland communities, and other opportunities for express coach services between fast rail hubs and key regional cities and centres in other regions are also being investigated.

    Faster journeys within and between cities

    Fast rail will connect our skilled workforces and innovation districts in each city. As an example, the potential to link the Aerotropolis via metro rail and then to the fast rail would leverage all these assets to an internationally significant status, and create city-shaping benefits.

    Improving inter-city connections will reduce travel time and connect the six cities into a city region. It will be essential to integrate local public transport routes with outer metropolitan transport options, including fast rail, urban and suburban bus and rail networks and walking and cycling paths. The bus network also has an important role to play, as one of the most efficient ways to transport large numbers of people across our cities.

    Progressing this Region Shaper

    2.6 The Region Plan will support the delivery of a holistic strategy for fast rail that will develop the city making elements of the fast rail strategy to realise the benefits.

    2.7 The Region Plan and City Plans will continue to prioritise rail links to connect the Western Parkland City to the rest of the city region.

    2.8 The Region and City Plans will support a rapid bus strategy (including new fleet, services, technologies and infrastructure) that services key centres and corridors across Sydney, prioritising Parramatta Road and Victoria Road, and between the Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport and key metropolitan centres of Liverpool, Campbelltown and Penrith.

    2.9 The Region and City Plans will support the extended program to improve public transport within the metropolitan cities of Newcastle, Central Coast and Wollongong.