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Wi-Fi and mobile coverage for NSW central coast train route behind schedule

Federal government documents said NSW state and local government planning laws are to blame.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

State government red tape is causing "significant delays" for a project that was established to provide continuous mobile coverage and Wi-Fi along the New South Wales central coast train route between Hornsby and Wyong, an incoming brief from the Department of Communications has revealed.

"While Sydney Trains is the landowner at most of the sites where mobile base stations are proposed, NSW state and local government planning laws still require Telstra to lodge development applications (DAs) to local councils for approval," the document said.

"DAs are subject to public consultation and any public objections would need to be dealt with by councils in accordance with their local planning processes."

The project, which is being implemented by the NSW government and delivered by Telstra, is currently not meeting milestones that were agreed upon by the federal government and NSW government due to the delays, the document said.

As a consequence, the federal government said it will stall its second milestone payment of AU$8 million to the NSW government, and a request for a movement of funds from 2018-19 to 2019-20 will be required.

The Australian government committed to invest AU$12 million to fund the delivery of this project from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The NSW government is contributing AU$4 million.

A Sydney Trains spokesperson said the NSW government will continue to work closely with Telstra on the project.

"We have provided Land Owners consent to Telstra to lodge the Development Application for the necessary infrastructure between Hornsby and Wyong," the spokesperson told ZDNet.

Similarly, a Telstra spokesperson said it remains committed to improving mobile network coverage on the Central Coast rail corridor.

"This includes building new mobile infrastructure between Hornsby and Wyong (around 68 kilometres of train tracks), as well as delivering Wi-Fi at train stations along the rail corridor," the spokesperson said.

"We expect Wi-Fi to be delivered to the 19 train stations over the coming months as planned. We also expect to deploy significant mobile infrastructure in the rail corridor over the next 12 months."

Work on improving coverage started earlier this year. It was scheduled that Wi-Fi connectivity for up to six train platforms would be completed between May and June, and further station platforms were also scheduled for Wi-Fi connectivity for the remainder of 2019, with the last station platform to be completed by April 2020.

Meanwhile, it was planned that mobile base stations would also be completed during this year, with services to be switched on progressively throughout the year. 

At the end of last year, the NSW government announced it would invest AU$8.25 million to target 21 mobile blackspots in regional areas across the state, with Telstra and Optus signed on to help build out the coverage. 

The base stations will provide mobile coverage to 6,000 premises across regional NSW, including in Dubbo, Ballina, Narrabri, Walgett, and Warrumbungle.

Optus announced that it would be responsible for 16 of the sites -- Anembo, Bannaby Hill, Fernleigh, Glanmire, Goolmangar, Lowanna East, Main Arm, Majors Creek, Mount Bodangora, Mt Mary, Rick Valley, Rosebank, Rouchel Brook, Stony Chute, Sunnyside, and Tanja -- which will be funded using AU$6 million from the state government and AU$6 million from Optus' co-contribution. 

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