AS rail passengers wait for the state government to decide how it will improve rail services to the central west, public transport campaigner Peter Bilenkij has urged the government to consider shortening the rail line.
While future connections to, and housing of, the Bathurst Bullet have gleaned much of the attention so far, Dr Bilenkij said improving the track was another way of cutting travel times.
“There are at least four areas between Orange and Lithgow where there are extremely tight curves and all the trains slow down, but there’s disused track there, which may be still in good condition, that could be relaid to improve the journey,” he said.
He believed the adjustments could save 15-20 minutes.
“Twenty minutes less between Orange and Lithgow is 20 minutes worth saving,” he said.
“A survey has to be commissioned and costed.”
Dr Bilenkij, a member of Orange City Council’s rail action group, said the shortened track already existed.
It was built in 1886, however, the steep inclines were beyond the capability of the steam engines of the day and longer loops were constructed on easier terrain.
With train carriages improving, particularly tilt trains, which are capable of rounding sharp bends faster, Dr Bilenkij said the two measures combined could reduce the almost-five-hour journey to four hours.
The Inter-Regional Public Transport Inquiry has recommended providing funding to upgrade the network and investigating opportunities for more express services, as well as reviewing the connectivity between rail and coach services for Orange passengers relying on public transport to catch the Bathurst Bullet.
Currently, buses miss the train by minutes.
Dr Bilenkij said improving the connections would allow Orange to demonstrate its demand for the train, to justify housing the train overnight in Orange.
Member for Orange Andrew Gee chaired the inquiry and Dr Bilenkij said discussions had been ongoing for the past six months.
“Our voice has been heard, but it’s now in the government’s hands,” he said.
The recommendations, released last month, are currently with the government for consideration.
It has until September to respond.
However, the action group will seek support from Centroc to further advance the case for better services in the meantime.
Group chair, councillor Neil Jones said it would focus on Forbes, Parkes, Bathurst, Dubbo, Cowra and Wellington councils, with meetings to be arranged.