Labor has promised a complete review of Blue Mountains rail services if elected at the March 2019 state election.
Labor’s transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, made the announcement at a public meeting in Wentworth Falls on Saturday, October 13. Ms McKay and Blue Mountains Labor MP Trish Doyle met with more than 100 residents who expressed their concerns at a range of public transport matters including local bus route changes as well as design problems with the new intercity fleet.
A recurring theme at the meeting was that rail services were either inadequate to meet passenger demand, leading to chronic overcrowding, or non-existent, forcing passengers back into their cars in order to commute to work or visit the shops.
“This is something which I have been hearing from people in the community for many years. We either don’t have enough services to encourage public transport take-up in the first place, or the services we do have are running at 110 per cent capacity, which is unsafe and uncomfortable for passengers,” said Ms Doyle.
Ms McKay said Labor was “unashamedly pro-public transport”.
“If we are elected in March 2019, I will order a review of the Blue Mountains timetable and look at what we can do to promote greater use of our public transport system not just to and from Central or Parramatta, but within the Mountains too,” she said.
“The transport system under Gladys Berejiklian and Andrew Constance just isn’t working for passengers. As they lurch from crisis to crisis it is little wonder there isn’t time in their day to think about what they could be doing to actually improve things.”
Ms Doyle told the meeting on Saturday that she is often approached by commuters from the Blue Mountains and beyond who would like to see more frequent services throughout the Mountains and to Lithgow.
“We have a burgeoning late night economy in Katoomba and Springwood which would benefit from improved public transport services. Workers who finish late in the retail or hospitality sectors should be able to enjoy a drink after their shift or see a band at the pub but with the last eastbound train service at 10.20pm on a Friday night this is almost impossible,” Ms Doyle said.
“Labor will look at what we can do to offer locals a genuine alternative to jumping in their cars to get to and from work or to go shopping. At the moment, our train service is geared towards weekday commuters travelling to or from Sydney, but there’s no reason we can’t investigate intra-Mountains services and get more cars off the Great Western Highway during the day and on weekends.”
The Gazette contacted the office of transport minister Andrew Constance for comment, receiving a reply from Transport for NSW. It stated:
“In the last year alone, we have supported the Blue Mountains community by delivering 24 new eight-car weekend express trains in response to growing demand and a new weekday return express service to improve connections between Sydney and Lithgow.
“We remain committed to improving public transport both for people who live in the Blue Mountains and for the tourists who play such a vital part of the local economy.
“We value the views of the Blue Mountains and their feedback, combined with Opal data, helps inform our decision-making. Earlier this year, we reinstated Redfern as a stop on six key services. This was in direct response to Blue Mountains customers having their say, and we listened and acted accordingly.
“The new intercity fleet will also provide customers with safe and reliable journeys between Central and Lithgow when they hit the Blue Mountains Line from 2020.
“Unlike the old V-Sets they will replace, these trains are fully accessible and will include a range of modern amenities including the latest CCTV technology, state-of-the-art air conditioning designed to maintain consistent temperatures in all parts of the carriage and charging points for mobile devices.
“In late 2016 the NSW Government delivered almost 50 additional weekly services on route 686 between Katoomba and Echo Point which provided more travel options for customers earlier in the mornings and later in the evenings, as well as additional services on weekends, including during the day on Sundays. A further boost to services on this route is being planned.”