Workers shun train for M1 TweetFacebookNewcastle Heraldreported on Tuesday that the intercity service has actually beengetting worse since 2011,figures from the Bureau of Transport Statistics reveal that workers in the Hunter are fed up with the service.
In fact, according to the bureau’s own statistics, while about 12,300people caught the Newcastle and Central Coast intercity line between July and February, only about 250people travel by train from the lower Hunterto the Sydney CBD for work each day, compared to more than 2000 from the Illawarra.
The NSW government concedes the service isn’t up to scratch, but rather than investing in wholesale changesit says the arrival of the new intercity fleet in 2019 will help make the trip more attractive.
Parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, admitted the service took “too long” and that the current fleet was “well past its use-by date, like something out of Happy Days”.
Mr MacDonald, who travels to Newcastle from Sydney at least once a week, said he hadn’t caught a train in more than 18 months, choosing to take his chances on the “scary” M1.
“I don’t find that it’s a service that fits my needs, at this stage the journey is too long and of course Idon’t have much flexibility on the other end to get around Newcastle because at the momentthe linkages just aren’t there,” he said.
However he said the arrival of the new trains coupled with the privatisation of the public transport network inNewcastle would all help improve the system.
While he admitted the new fleet “wouldn’t do a huge amount” to shorten the journey, it would “providea much more comfortable journey.
But University of Western Sydney professor of economic geography Phillip O’Neill said it was “extraordinary” that the rail link between the two cities was “not being invested in as one of the nation’s primary infrastructure assets”.
“What efficient connections do between cities is spread labour marketsand information flows, the very movement of people, ideas and money that is exactly what you want to promote economic growth and quality urban living,”he said.
NOT SO HAPPY: Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald admits the existing trains are “like something out of Happy Days”. PICTURE: Max Mason-Hubers
New trains will help serviceA spokesman for the transport department said it was “continuing to explore opportunities to improve journey times and reliability”.
While questions were put to Transport Minister Andrew Constance’s office, the departmental spokesman said the aim was to improve the service “by making the best use of the existing infrastructure, signalling systems and rolling stock”.
He said the government was “committed to finding ways to improve service efficiencies between Newcastle and Sydney” and that the new intercity fleet would “require less maintenance which means more trains on the tracks and improved reliability for customers”.
“The [new intercity fleet]will be designed with the comfort of the customer in mind,” the spokesman said.
“Transport for NSW has consulted with passengers to find out what they wanted and incorporated a lot of this feedback into the early designs.
“We’ve been able to incorporate comfortable two by two seating. Each seat will have tray tables and cup holders, as well as the ability to charge mobile devices.”
Meanwhile linkages between services in Newcastle would be improved by the privatisation of the network, the government claims.
Solutions ‘not good enough’The Heraldreported on Tuesday that the Auditor General’s report had found that the punctuality of the service had been getting worse since 2011, but thatrail agencies “were not able to provide evidence-based explanations” for why the service is so slow, but that it probably has to do with a lack of investment.
Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said that was “not good enough”.
“Many people from this area use this train service, but many more would use it if it were more reliable and faster,” she said.
“The government claims that it wants to make Newcastle a world-class city but won’t even provide a service that meets the basic standards.
“It is not good enough that the government doesn’t know why the problem is occurring and has put this important transport solution in the too hard basket.”
Dr O’Neill saidthe NSW government had a “Sydney-centric view” of planning that was causinghousing market imbalancesand rising economic inequality.
“It was obviously recognised as a good idea over 100 yearsago to connect Sydney with Newcastle andit’s extraordinarythat in the 21st centurywhen there are so many good reasons to promote Newcastle as one of the world’s great Pacific Ocean citiesthat the Sydney to Newcastlerail corridor is not being invested in as one of the nation’s prim infrastructure assets,” he said.