ORANGE councillor Glenn Taylor has called on state members for Orange, Bathurst, and Dubbo to publicly oppose any plans to cut XPT services in the central west.
The future of the CountryLink XPT service has come under scrutiny in past weeks, following a revelation from Transport for NSW director-general Les Wielinga that it would cost more than $450 million to rebuild the ageing fleet of trains.
An independent strategy for the state’s next 20 years from former premier Nick Greiner released last week, suggested the trains could be privatised or replaced with coach services when they reach the end of their life span.
But Cr Taylor said the XPT remained an essential service and should continue to be subsidised by the government. “We live in a community, not necessarily just an economy,” he said.
“The entire CityRail network is all subsidised so what are they telling us? It’s okay to subsidise city people but not the country.”
Last year 1.9 million people travelled on a CountryLink train, down from 2.2 million a decade earlier.
Cr Taylor said the decline could be addressed with timetable changes especially the reversal of the Sydney to Dubbo XPT service’s timetable.
He said the government should look at enhancing the XPT service not reducing it.
“Governments are about providing services,” he said.
“The economic rationalists are in control.”
With airline ticket costs prohibitive and elderly residents unlikely to drive to Sydney, Cr Taylor said the XPT remained the only option for some.
A Bathurst to Sydney commuter rail service, offering dramatically reduced ticket prices compared to the XPT, will start from October 21, but Cr Taylor believes it is unlikely to be taken up by Orange residents.
“People still have to get themselves to Bathurst,” he said.
“The XPT should be regarded as an essential service. Any moves to cut it back or cease it should be resisted by the entire central west community.”
The council will take up a push to campaign for fairer ticket prices for the central west at the Local Government Association conference later this month.