A plan to provide free public transport to the Blue Mountains on weekends looks unlikely to get off the ground after NSW transport minister Gladys Berejiklian ignored the proposal on Monday.
NSW Labor called on the O’Farrell Government to provide free bus and train services on weekends to and from the Blue Mountains this holiday season to help local businesses recover from the October bushfires.
An economic analysis undertaken by Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism (BLMOT) estimates the region has lost more than $47 million in tourism revenue in the six weeks following the bushfires.
The BLMOT document concludes domestic day trips alone were down by more than 144,000 — representing lost income of more than $13 million for local businesses.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said the government needs to implement practical measures to encourage visitors back into the region.
“The Blue Mountains is open for business — that message needs to get out there,” said Mr Robertson.
“There are dozens of bus and train services to and from the Blue Mountains every weekend. These public transport services should be free and promoted across the Sydney Trains network to encourage families and tourists to plan a trip to the Mountains.”
Opposition transport spokesperson Penny Sharpe said Labor’s proposal could be implemented immediately.
“For a family of two adults and two children it would cost $34.80 on a Saturday to travel from Central to Springwood by train,” said Ms Sharpe.
“Given what these businesses have endured over the last two months, that’s $34 better spent in a Blue Mountains small business.”
Labor spokeswoman for Blue Mountains, Trish Doyle, said the free public transport plan was a practical measure that could help kickstart the tourism economy following the fires.
Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill said that while coverage of the fires had helped raise awareness and support for survivors, many visitors had been scared away.
“We have hundreds of thousands of hectares of world heritage listed national park with breathtaking scenery, pristine waterways and amazing walking tracks,” said Clr Greenhill.
“Tourism operators across the region from cafe owners to accommodation providers are all ready to show visitors to our region a great time.
“We welcome any proposal that encourages visitors and their wallets to our region.”
But in a statement of Monday, Ms Berejiklian didn’t address the free public transport plan directly, stating that “the NSW Government continues to work with the community to help those impacted [by the fires]”.
“An auction of Sydney Trains lost property items held on Saturday raised thousands of dollars that will be donated to victims of the Blue Mountains bushfire,” she said.
She said the government had also announced funding for a campaign to encourage tourists to visit the Blue Mountains.