THE need to revamp regional rail services was the major issue to emerge from a meeting yesterday on public transport in regional areas.
The Tamworth meeting was the last of three the State and Regional Development Parliamentary Committee has held around NSW with council and government representatives and other organisations as part of its inquiry into inter-regional public transport.
Committee chairman Andrew Gee said there were “quite a number” of issues and some communities were not served very well by public transport.
One of the major issues was timetabling, Mr Gee said, and making public transport more responsive to the needs of the public to increase usage.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said there were two main problems with the provision of public transport to the Tamworth area.
“It comes under two distinct headings: the lack of it and the poor alignment with suitable travel timing, in as much as we need an early service to Newcastle to link with Sydney, and another one coming back in the afternoon,” Councillor Murray said.
Cost was also an issue, he said; a train from Scone – which was serviced by CityRail – to Sydney was much cheaper than a train from Tamworth, which was a CountryLink service.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the population of the area had outstripped the timetables, frequency and destinations currently offered by rail services.
Other issues included unmanned stations, the connectivity between buses and trains, and increasing tourism and business use.
But a variety of solutions have been put on the table to address regional NSW’s transport woes.
Mr Gee said these included the possibility of combining passenger and freight rail services,
making travel passes more comprehensive, providing services such as WiFi to entice business travellers, and reconsidering the size and frequency of trains.
Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay, also on the committee, said rail services and transport were integral to the success and prosperity of regional areas.
He said it was clear that people in regional areas wanted to see buses supplement rail, not replace it.
Cr Murray agreed and said the community did not accept that buses were a solution for long- distance travel.
He said it was encouraging that from the discussion it emerged they were not aiming for the best system conceivable, but a system that met the needs of the community and was financially sustainable to ensure its longevity.
Cr Murray told The Leader he was confident the concerns and recommendations would be heard by the government, but was less confident whether something would come out of it.
He said he hoped the government would have the political will to act on the inquiry and bring regional transport into the 21st century.
Mr Anderson said the inquiry was a good opportunity for the committee to influence the formation of NSW Trains, the organisation that will take charge of regional rail.
More than 150 submissions were lodged to the inquiry, which Mr Gee said showed there was high interest in transport.
“When I became chair of the committee, we started to look at what sorts of issues are close to the hearts of people in country NSW, and public transport is one of those issues,” he said.
With these meetings completed, submissions received and public consultation finished, the committee will now compile its report, which is expected to go to the government by the middle of this year.
Among the other councils and organisations to meet with the committee were Gunnedah Shire Council, Liverpool Plains Shire Council, Tamworth Business Chamber and Namoi Regional Organisation of Councils.