OUR SAY: Tracks are key to transport transformation

An XPT at the Dubbo Railway Station before it departs for Sydney.
An XPT at the Dubbo Railway Station before it departs for Sydney.

While recent timetabling debates on train services between Orange and Sydney are well-meaning, they are only an aside to the real problem and the public transport discussion needs to return to infrastructure.

The Orange Rail Action Group has been lobbying the government for years about a solution to the Bathurst Bullet issue.

It had a partial victory, with a coach service now linking to the bullet from Orange.

But having the train housed here has suffered a blow, with Transport for NSW confirming there are no plans to extend it, and this has reopened discussions on timetabling.

The recently-suggested alternative of reversing a service from Sydney so it leaves Orange at a more reasonable hour has also been rejected. 

Poll feedback to this newspaper suggesting rail users would be open to the suggestion, but to expect multiple services a day could be too much to ask where the tyranny of distance is significant.

Therefore, it becomes even more important to establish priorities.

The current service using the bullet, while it gets the traveller to Central Station already late for the business day, still allows travel for business purposes. 

A 7am service, arriving after 11am, would not fulfil this purpose.

However, for those who want to travel to Sydney socially or to shop, a 7am departure is far more forgiving than 4.50am and could allow more people to travel, particularly the elderly. 

Regardless of which travel slot wins out, improvements could be made to the half-hour waits at Lithgow, for example. 

If the state government can spend billions on infrastructure in Sydney, surely it can spend a little to ensure those travelling longer distances need not wait unnecessarily.

But by extension, niggles in timetabling will matter less if the travelling times are improved through new trains and upgraded tracks.

We’ve got a 2019 commitment on the replacements for the current XPT fleet, but nothing has been said yet about fixing the bends in the track around Blayney. 

The new trains will be little use if they cannot travel any faster.

Shortening the trip to less than four hours will not only make the train more viable, but a serious alternative to driving.