THE state government has gone off the rails when it comes to plans for the future of regional train services, a northern council says.
Liverpool Plains Shire Council mayor Ian Lobsey has criticised the lack of detail in the draft Long Term Transport Master Plan on the government’s intentions to upgrade regional rail.
A new regional rail company, NSW Trains, will be established within the next 12 to 18 months and will replace Countrylink.
The plan said country passenger rail services were approaching a “critical decision point” and proposed a Country Passenger Rail Services Strategy, but gave no indication when it would be undertaken.
It said the strategy would address such issues as inconvenient timetables and slow travel speeds and service speeds, modernise the rail service and include a program to acquire new rolling stock.
There were few other details provided, with the draft plan suggesting such information would be included in other plans that would stem from the master plan.
Cr Lobsey said it was disappointing the state government was only at the stage of considering a rail strategy and that people would have to wait years for any real action to improve services.
Liverpool Plains Shire Council has called for the Newcastle-to-Scone daily CityRail service to be extended to Tamworth, to provide a day return service to Newcastle.
The Rail, Bus and Tram Union also criticised the plan, saying it overlooked rail and particularly the need to invest in rail freight.
“Investment in the north-south inland rail freight corridor should have been a priority, to deliver an economic boost for regional areas throughout NSW and get some of those trucks off our roads,” union secretary Alex Claassens said.
Cr Lobsey said there were some comments in the plan – including better bus services, working with councils to identify rural roads important for freight, and regional transport plans – that had merit, but once again there were no firm plans to take action on these.
Submissions on the draft master plan can be made until October 26 at haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/trans portmasterplan.