Most unfortunately, it is becoming much more constraining to live in the Southern Highlands.
It’s great, of course, if you can concentrate most of your daily life here, but is becoming a nightmare if you need to travel to Sydney regularly. The M5, and then Sydney traffic, is killing many.
While on a straight drive it should take about an hour-and-a-quarter, it can now take two to three hours on many mornings.
You only need a couple of bingles or breakdowns towards the city and you are soon in a premature car park that, at its worst, may stretch back to Campbelltown.
When I first moved to live down here permanently in Exeter, some dozen or so years ago, I thought I’d catch the train regularly.
Unfortunately, the government soon reduced the number of trains.
As bad as this is, I become incensed, as I listen to the radio on my Sydney journeys, to hear government ministers and officials ‘boasting’ of their ‘integrated transport strategy’, and how they are reducing travelling times on public transport, while embarking on ‘revolutionary’ new road construction.
I must be getting old. I now read ‘integrated’ as ‘chaos’, and suspect all new roads will simply move the traffic jam somewhere else, rather than solve the problem.
The bottom line of most government policy, especially the failure to develop adequate public transport, has been to force more and more cars and trucks onto the road.
The ill-conceived two-lane M5 tunnel, coincident with a rapid expansion of Port Botany, and little of that by rail, has guaranteed traffic chaos.
What can be done for those of us that love living in the Highlands? A couple of small things could make a difference.
Let me start locally. We could reverse the insanity that saw traffic lights installed at the intersection of Merrigang and Bong Bong streets.
This has seriously disrupted the traffic flow, both within Bowral, and to and from Bowral. To what end?
Second, we are fast approaching the need for a ‘European solution’ - banning trucks on the highways in peak hours, say 6 to 9am, and 4 to 7pm. This could make a huge difference.
Third, what about electrifying the train line to (say) Goulburn, and seriously upgrading the availability, regularity, and reliability of train services.
Unfortunately, I have been told, but haven’t been able to establish its veracity, that our line is very much a ‘residual line’ that suffers the result of inefficiencies elsewhere in the rail system.
Of course, a longer-term solution to improve train travel maybe to build a second, dedicated, freight line.
The bottom line is that Sydney has been allowed to expand rapidly in the context of inadequate planning, both of developments and transport.
People have been forced to live further and further out from the city, and to become increasingly reliant on their car(s) as a principal means of transport.
The most obvious solution is a sophisticated London/New York-style Metro system, with high-rise residential development along major, arterial, transport routes.
But, I suspect that this is asking for far too much, given tight budgets, and constrained finances, and the incapacity of our governments, at all three levels, federal, state and local, to think and plan strategically and long–term.
They seem to prefer to just muddle through, but at our increasing expense.