Public transport forum hears train gripes

More than 90 people gathered at a public transport community forum at the Mid Mountains Neighbourhood Centre in Lawson on Saturday.

The two hour forum was arranged by Labor’s Blue Mountains spokeswoman Trish Doyle who is expected to stand for preselection for the party for the next state election in just over a year. The forum was to discuss the changes made to the Mountains train timetable.

Invited speaker, Michael Paag, a Blue Mountains commuter group spokesman, said his own train had gone in the revamped train timetable introduced in October last year. He also had concerns about security, calling cutbacks to police on trains “crazy”.

But Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage said on Monday the government had “actually increased the number of police on the rail network”.

“This is because they have more powers than the old transport officers and can cover more of the network by patrolling in pairs, compared to fours and fives with transport officers. Under Labor, security on trains was controlled by people who didn’t have police powers, had no police training and no police intelligence,” she said.

Mr Paag, the failed 2007 state Liberal candidate, was one of a range of speakers concerned about the lack of consultation with the timetable. He said his concerns were being ignored by Mrs Sage, who had a “closed door policy ... with emails ignored and telephone calls not responded”.

Mrs Sage also disputed this claim on Monday, saying her door has “always been open for commuter feedback”.

Disgruntled commuters from Warrimoo, the Mid-Mountains and from Blackheath and beyond were concerned about gaps in the timetable — express trains that were overlooking “minor stations” and also bypassing Westmead and Blacktown. Others were worried that state-of-the-art new trains were too high for the platform at Springwood and Hazelbrook and services were not being properly integrated with buses or other trains.

Many commuters at the forum said they were being forced to drive to major stations and some had given up on trains altogether and were driving to work.

Addressing the crowd, one commuter said 300 services had been lost weekly under the new timetable, while another commuter, a young university student, told the group she didn’t feel safe on the limited late night trains.  But a Wentworth Falls traveller said he was pleased to be saving 15 minutes a day under the revised train timetable.

Mrs Sage defended the timetable, saying it “responded to the many commuters who had asked for shorter travel times”.

Opposition transport minister Penny Sharpe, who had addressed another public transport forum out of the region earlier in the week, said Labor “didn’t always get it right either and there is far more work to do, but the simple fact is public transport drives economic productivity of this city — if we get public transport right that makes us all live a better life”.

NSW Opposition leader John Robertson attended the event. Earlier that day he had given his support to a second airport at Badgerys Creek.

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