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Cutting our country rail services – is that really the solution?

Oct 5, 2012Hot Topic

The recent Infrastructure NSW report contained a recommendation that has ruffled a few feathers – the recommendation that regional XPT services be sold or cut.

The report states, under the heading of ‘Improving regional and interstate public transport’ that:

“Over the next 10 years, the XPT fleet used on long distance rail services will approach the end of its economic life. A decision will need to be taken on whether the substantial investment required for new rolling stock is justified given very low regional rail patronage, or whether alternative approaches should be a priority

“Alternatives could include greater use of coach services or service sharing on some routes with Great Southern Railway, a private sector operator of interstate passenger trains. These options may be more economically viable and could provide faster journey times.

“The very limited role rail plays in regional transport leads Infrastructure NSW to conclude that the case for investment to reopen historic railways lines to passenger traffic will need careful assessment on a case by case basis and is unlikely to be viable in most cases.

“Infrastructure NSW has not assessed any of these proposed projects due to the absence, at this stage, of sufficiently detailed business cases. Transport for NSW is currently assessing the proposed reopening of the Casino to Murwillumbah rail corridor.”

Loco Division Secretary Bob Hayden said if the government were to take these recommendations on board, it would be a disaster for rural and regional communities across the state – not to mention the drivers who work on those lines.

“The proposal to sell off or completely remove our regional service is downright ridiculous, and we’ll be lobbying hard to ensure that doesn’t happen,” Bob Hayden said.

“This attack on our country passenger services just highlights the short-sightedness of the Infrastructure NSW report.

“Rural and regional communities would be hit hard if rail were scrapped in favour of buses. What they should be doing it looking at how they can make the current service more viable – not cutting our regional centres off the moment a service doesn’t look like it’s going to make the government coffers a bit of cash.”

What do you think of Infrastructure NSW’s recommendation? What do you think the solution is? Do you think the O’Farrell Government will listen to Infrastructure NSW’s suggestions?