EDITORIAL: Wholesale change needed to fix train pain

EDITORIAL: Wholesale change needed to fix train pain

Commuter train verdict: ‘they suck’Workers shun train for M1COULD there be a better demonstration that the current train link between Sydney and Newcastle is not up to scratch than the fact that the government’s own representative in the Hunter won’t use it?

Scot MacDonald, the parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, has earned a reputation for being willing to tell it like it is.

When the former Premier Mike Baird resigned in January, Mr MacDonald admitted he was“a little bit concerned” that the Premier’sresignation will see the focusshift away from the region.

In September last year he admitted the education departmenthad made a mistake by selling off six hectares of prime Port Stephens koala habitat.

And, he has now freely admitted that the major transport link between Sydney and Newcastle is not up to scratch.

So much so that he’d rather risk it on the crowded and, by his own admission, “scary” M1.

Rather than wholesale change, this government says that the new intercity fleet, due to be rolled out in 2019, will help fix the problem.

The trains are more modern, and more comfortable, than the existing fleet, which Mr MacDonald likened to something from the “Happy Days” era.

But the truth is that a new fleet of trains is not enough.

While they may be more comfortable and reliable, the plain fact is that two-and-a-half hours between the two major cities in the largest state in is simply not good enough.

In 1998, the then Labor Premier, Bob Carrannounced plans for a high speed upgrade of the Newcastle-Central Coast-Sydney railway line.

The upgrade was to be completed by 2007. It never happened.

That’s proof enough that this is not a problem of this government’s making, but there’s no use pretending that what they’re offering is any kind of realsolution.

The truth is that Hunter residents are not now even asking for high speed rail.

Even efficient rail would, at this point, be a major step forward.

For all the government’s talk of wanting Newcastle to emerge as a global city, the reality is that without a fast, reliable andcomfortable connection with Sydney –and its links to global capital –this city will never be able to offer itself as a viable alternative.

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