Not the end of the line for the South Maitland Railway

Post No. 3 'Not the end of the line for the South Maitland Railway' was published on 12 March, 2021.

Driving past stations like Neath along the South Maitland Railway is like looking at a chapter of our history frozen in time. Passenger services ceased on this line nearly 50 years ago, in 1972. However, the line remained active, hauling coal out of collieries in the region, up until March 2020 when operations at the Austar coal mine in Pelton were suspended.

Austar’s Pelton colliery is now set to permanently close, ending a chapter in Cessnock’s history and perhaps putting the final nail in the coffin for the mothballed South Maitland Railway.

However, this doesn’t have to be the end of the line for the historic railway that stretches from Maitland to mines past Cessnock. I think this railway should be reopened as a passenger line, connecting the growing urban areas of Cessnock and Maitland by rail, and facilitating sustainable transport for development between the urban centres.

Proposed Cessnock Line map

My proposal would have stops at Maitland, Gillieston Heights, Kurri Kurri North (to serve Kurri Kurri TAFE), Kurri Kurri, Weston, Abermain, Neath, Aberdare, and Cessnock. Express services would only stop at Maitland, Gillieston Heights, Kurri Kurri, and Cessnock.

The line could initially remain single-track until a time when demand has grown to warrant duplication. The line could also eventually be extended to Millfield via Bellbird using mostly existing infrastructure if development in that area continues. The line should also be electrified however this will most likely only occur alongside the electrification of the Hunter Line which is not a priority for the state government at this stage.

Example Timetable:

  • Cessnock 0700
  • Aberdare, 1.97km, 0704
  • Neath, 5.26km, 0711
  • Abermain, 1.30km, 0714
  • Weston, 3.22km, 0719
  • Kurri Kurri, 1.32km, 0722
  • Kurri Kurri North, 2.91km, 0726
  • Gillieston Heights, 4.99km, 0732
  • Maitland, 4.57km, 0737

Cessnock to Maitland in 37 minutes. This trip currently takes 29 minutes by car.