Eight smaller towns along the highway will lose some morning and evening peak-hour trains when the new timetable comes into force next month.
And the long-held hopes of Medlow Bath, Blackheath and Mt Victoria residents for a more frequent service have been dashed with no extra trains scheduled west of Katoomba.
Trips down the Mountains and into Central will be quicker with the new express services but they come at a cost to residents of Bullaburra, Lawson, Woodford, Linden, Faulconbridge, Valley Heights, Warrimoo and Lapstone, where the trains will not stop.
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said many commuters had asked for faster journeys and the timetable had responded to that.
“For example, a commuter taking a daily return journey from Katoomba to Sydney can save up to 75 minutes a week, depending on which train they catch,” she said.
She said the stations chosen for the express services were based on passenger counts by the Bureau of Transport Statistics. There will be three express
services which skip the eight stations each weekday morning and another three in the evening.
Mrs Sage also said the new timetable was easier to understand because it had only two stopping patterns in peak periods – all stations and express.
But Julius Timmerman, from the Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents, said the express trains would force people into their cars.
“Barry O’Farrell had promised to improve train services, yet cutting back on peak hour services from the Mid-Mountains could hardly rate as an improvement,” he said.
“Governments should be encouraging the use of public transport by making it more available, convenient and affordable, not less so.
“I can see the Hazelbrook carpark filling to capacity as commuters feel the necessity to drive there, meaning more private transport movements towards public transport,” Mr Timmerman said.
Blue Mountains Commuters and Transport Users Association president Michael Paag said he doubted whether the commuter carpark at Katoomba could take many extra cars and he questioned how people without cars or who didn’t drive would cope.
Mr Paag said Upper Mountains residents had been agitating for years for an hourly service between Katoomba and Lithgow and he’d gathered 1000 signatures on a petition seeking more regular trains.
He said statistics showed the demand was there and would only increase with the opening in Lithgow of new campuses of Notre Dame University (opened in March) and the University of Western Sydney (due to open later this year).
“Despite numerous approaches to our local State MP and the NSW State Government we have had no written responses to our request for more services west of Katoomba,” Mr Paag said.
Of particular concern was the axing of the 9.02am from Mt Victoria, leaving nothing between an 8am and 10am train for those west of Katoomba. (There is a new 11am service in the revised timetable.)
At Blackheath station last Friday morning, there were about 30 passengers waiting for the 9.09 train. Some were going to medical appointments, some to part-time jobs and others were visiting relatives or shopping. All were disturbed the train would no longer exist.
Sue Monckton, who was heading to her neurologist at Leura, said the two-hour gap made it difficult to keep appointments.
“With weekends we get one train an hour. I don’t know why they can’t do that during the week.”