Freight rail access to Port Kembla

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Freight rail access to Port Kembla

Freight rail access to Port Kembla
Early-stage proposal (Stage 1)
Illawarra/Southern Highlands region, NSW
Smaller cities and regional centres
Regional Connectivity
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Medium term (5-10 years)
Proposed By
NSW Government
Date added to the IPL
17 February 2016


The 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit identified that Port Kembla would face capacity constraints in the absence of any additional rail network improvements. Port Kembla is a significant economic asset. Maintaining efficient movement of freight to and from the port is a nationally significant challenge.

Additionally, there is a need to improve the efficiency and reliability of freight rail movements between the Illawarra and Greater Sydney, particularly between Port Kembla and the intermodal terminals in Western Sydney.

Around 60% of freight travelling to and from Port Kembla is transported by rail on either the Illawarra Line or the Moss Vale– Unanderra Line. Operations on the Illawarra Line are constrained by passenger rail services in the region, resulting in disruptions to freight scheduling. Freight services are often held for up to 11 hours as passenger services are given priority.

In the long term, Port Kembla’s Outer Harbour development is expected to attract overflow container traffic from Port Botany. The NSW Government has stipulated that Port Kembla should generally not accept more than 120,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units per annum by road. This is around 10% of planned Outer Harbour container capacity. This is likely to lead to a significant increase in demand for rail services.

The development of Outer Harbour as Sydney’s second international container terminal is likely to be the catalyst for substantial investment in rail capacity. This development is expected to occur around 2040.

Inadequate freight rail capacity may lead to a substantial increase in road freight, further constraining the Illawarra region’s road network.


Improve freight rail access to Port Kembla. This could be through enhancements to the Illawarra and/or Moss Vale–Unanderra lines, or through future development of an alternative rail alignment to the port.

A project to extend the Mount Murray crossing loop along the Moss Vale– Unanderra Line has been completed. The extension supports trains up to 1 km long, improving accessibility for these trains to travel between Moss Vale and Port Kembla.

Next steps

Proponent to develop potential investment options (Stage 2 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework).