With the world championships coming to town in a little over three weeks, it’s time for sport fans who are hoping to be in Wollongong to watch the racing to finalise their travel and plans.
– By Rob Arnold
The 2022 UCI Road World Championships begin on Sunday 18 September and hotel rooms in Wollongong are proving difficult to find. A lot of the local accommodation was booked up months ago, meaning many spectators will need to ‘commute’ to the Illawarra region if they are to witness any of the racing action and associated festivities.
It’s roughly 85km from Sydney to Wollongong, and the organisers have said for months that extra train services will be added to help cater for spectators who are planning to make the journey south.
The standard weekend timetable, as published on the Transport for NSW site, offers a mix train services with the express option (ie. limited stops) said to take one hour and 20 minutes, from Wollongong station to Sydney Central.
On an ordinary weekend, there are 21 trains from Wollongong to Sydney with departures spanning from 3.19am through to 11.30pm (including 8 of the limited-stop option).
In recent weeks, however, there has been considerable industrial action, with strikes by rail staff playing havoc to the transport network in and around Sydney, with the service to Wollongong also significantly impacted.
The NSW government today issued a deed to the Rail Tram and Bus Union, which outlines commitments that will be made to satisfy demands from union officials, with the hope that it will resolve the dispute. The deed couldn’t halt the strike action planned for Thursday 25 August, and once again the roads are clogged and train services to and from Wollongong are impacted.
Of course, organisers of the worlds will be hoping that the dispute will be resolved in time for the week of the championships. If it’s not, the plans of many spectators who had hoped to visit Wollongong to watch the racing could be in disarray.
Last week, ABC Illawarra asked about the promise of additional train services for the period of the world championships and Transport for NSW, as well as the #Wollongong2022 organising committee, said they were confident train travel will be a viable option for spectators who are hoping to commute from Sydney to Wollongong for the event.
“Transport for NSW is working closely with local bus operators in the Illawarra to finalise the altered timetables for the event period,” a spokesperson for Transport for NSW told ABC Illawarra. “Full details will be available at transport.info for commuters to plan their trips two weeks out from the event’s start.
“Updated train timetables will be available in the Trip Planner closer to the event.”
Plans for train travel
ABC Illawarra’s Nick McLaren spoke with Roger Weeks from Transport for NSW to get an understanding of what plans have been put in place to cater for the increase in visitors to Wollongong during the period of the world championships. There will not only be more frequent train services, but also larger trains than what traditionally travel on the South Coast Line.
“We are increasing the number of services that will be running on the South Coast Line,” said Weeks. “In rough terms that will be about a 30-minute cycle, and we’re also increasing the number of carriages.
“Each of those trains are being planned to be what we call an eight-car set, so they’ll be eight carriages.
“Once again, we’re just putting the finishing touches on the timetable, and we’ll be releasing that via Transport.Info – or whatever timetable app you have. That will all get uploaded two weeks out from the event.”
With limited hotel rooms in and around the city of Wollongong, Weeks admits that Transport for NSW will be a providing a key service for many of the spectators planning to come to watch the racing. “We’re expecting a lot of people,” he said. “In fact, we’re hoping that most people will come out of Sydney on the train, and head into the city that way.
“There will be way-finding signs to help direct people to the key points on the route so that they can go to where it is that they want to watch part of the race.”
There are also travel options for visitors who want to drive to the championships. Access to Wollongong will be limited, with road closures a feature of the week, but there will be large carparks established north of the city.
“We are going to be establishing a park-and-ride up at the Bulli Showground,” said Weeks, “which means that the Bulli station will also see some increased patronage.”
Shuttle bus services
There will also be free bus shuttle services arranged from various locations to and from Wollongong. “The free Gong shuttle will still be operating, albeit a bit differently,” explained the spokesperson. “There will be three free shuttle services replacing the Free Gong Shuttle 55A and 55B from 17 September to 25 September.”
66 Green Shuttle
- University of Wollongong (UOW) campus to Wollongong CBD via Keiraville and Wollongong Station (loop service).
- Every 10 minutes 7.00am-10.00pm daily except for the Mt Keira Loop road closure periods on 24 September and 25 September.
56 Blue Shuttle
- North Wollongong Station to Gipps Street via Innovation Campus (loop service).
- Every 15 minutes, 7.00am-10.00pm daily.
- On 17 September the service will run until 11.00pm for Beach Party event, with standby buses ready for a high volume of patrons.
67 Orange Shuttle
- Corrimal to Wollongong Station via Memorial Drive (loop service).
- Every 20 minutes on weekdays (and every 30 mins on weekends), 7.00am-7.00pm daily except on 17 September when road closure finishes earlier (7.00am-1.00pm).
Note: Weekend timetables may differ, the community will be kept informed as updates become available.)
The shuttle bus services are “designed to get spectators into the particular main area of the race”. (See the map above for details of where these bus stops are.)
Roger Weeks explained to ABC Illawarra that the aim of the bus services is assist spectators as they move from one part of the race route to another. Another reason for the free shuttles is that much of the CBD will be subjected to road closures and so the buses will “help people who are coming down on the train or deciding to park their car further out because there will be very limited parking in the CBD area, and these shuttle services will be one of the ways that people will be able to get to watch the race”.
– By Rob Arnold