Orange council makes tracks for better transport

RAIL transport meets different needs to private coach travel and improving the connection between Orange and the Bathurst Bullet would not affect private businesses, according to Orange City Council’s chief advocate for improved rail services Cr Neil Jones.

All councillors agreed to back Cr Jones’s move to explore the upgrading of a heritage-listed shed near the Orange Railway Station to stable the Bathurst Bullet overnight, and set up a working group to lobby for better passenger transport for Orange at a council meeting last week.

But Cr Russell Turner said there were already four or five coaches leaving Orange each day linking to the Lithgow electric rail service and moves to connect Orange residents with the Bathurst Bullet would jeopardise the private coach business.

“Whilst I support the concept, have you ascertained why the train goes to Lithgow for stabling?” he said at the meeting.

“I assume it goes there for refuelling and maintenance and cleaning. They have a workshop there, we don’t.”

Cr Jones said the initial aim would be minor timetable adjustments so TrainLink coaches arrived in Bathurst in time for the Bullet’s departure.

The next objective would be to lobby for an extra express rail service from Lithgow so Orange passengers weren’t held up by the many stops through the Blue Mountains.

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Stabling the Bathurst Bullet in Orange overnight instead of Lithgow so the daily commuter service would begin from Orange would be the “ultimate goal”, Cr Jones said.

“[Rail travel] is more affordable and more comfortable and you can move around on a train,” Cr Jones said.

Since Dr Peter Bilenkij gained support from the council to lobby for improved transport last October, Cr Jones said an interim action group had met with member for Orange Andrew Gee, Transport NSW representatives, Centroc staff, Bells Line Expressway Group chair Ian Armstrong, and the Bathurst Rail Action Group.

But a regional approach was needed with other councils on-board.

Cr Jones said the discrepancy in fare prices of Bathurst and Orange would also be addressed.

But Mr Gee blamed the price difference on the previous Labor government’s “blatant pork-barrelling exercise” of placing Bathurst on the CityRail network and signalled things were unlikely to change.

“This unfair and iniquitous situation has led to calls from a number of western NSW communities to be placed on the CityRail network as well,” he said.

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