No plans to cut XPT services: Transport Minister

IN LIMBO: No guarantee has been made for the future of the XPT services that travel through Orange.
IN LIMBO: No guarantee has been made for the future of the XPT services that travel through Orange.

THE state government has said Orange will not be left without a daily express passenger train (XPT) service to Sydney but made no guarantee for the future as the trains approach the end of their lifespan. 

After two CSU academics released a report stating elderly passengers would be deterred from travelling if the trains were replaced with a coach service, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the train services would not be reduced.

The academics, adjunct associate professor Ian Gray and Dr Merrilyn Crichton, cited a 2012 Infrastructure NSW report that said the XPT would have to be replaced and coaches should be considered, and the 2012 NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan that said the trains should keep operating until 2016. 

The Central Western Daily asked Ms Berejiklian if the government intended to replace the ageing XPTs, how much longer they would run and when they would be replaced. She declined to answer and said instead “the community can be assured the government is looking closely at the future of the XPT fleet”.

“It is absolutely false to suggest regional train services will be reduced,” she said.

After an initial comment and refusal to give a guarantee, member for Orange Andrew Gee came back to the Central Western Daily late yesterday.

“The Liberal and Nationals government will not be downgrading or withdrawing country passenger rail services,” Mr Gee said.

“The minister has confirmed it - regional rail services will not be reduced. That’s a guarantee we’re all happy to hear.

“Regional public transport is one of the frontiers I would like to see a re-elected Liberals and Nationals government tackle.”

Ms Berejiklian said the government had introduced a range of new maintenance initiatives and strict standards to boost the reliability of the XPT fleet and was reviewing its future.

“We have set up the state’s first rail operator dedicated to the needs of long-distance customers, we’ve increased services and improved reliability and safety on the country regional rail network,” she said.

She said the previous Labor government had 16 years to upgrade the XPT fleet, causing Country Labor candidate Bernard Fitzsimon to hit back at the claims.

“I want to make it clear the situation with transport is due to 16 years of weak National Party representation and a failure to assert themselves to achieve outcomes for the electorate,” he said.

tanya.marschke@fairfaxmedia.com.au