Train of thought on East Fork

THE reintroduction of a Sydney to Broken Hill passenger train service has prompted a war of words over the suitability of Orange East Fork as a stop.

The return service, which operates once a week and stops both ways to pick up and drop off passengers at the East Fork Railway Station, started last week.

However, the Orange branch of the NSW Transport Authorities Retired Employees' Association, wants the train to stop at Orange's main station.

It argues the facilities at East Fork are inadequate and pose a safety risk to passengers.

Orange branch president Tom Hetherington has written to Transport Minister Carl Scully to outline the association's concerns.

Mr Hetherington, who spent all his working life on the railways and finished his career as Orange district superintendent, said the East Fork station was "most unsatisfactory”.

He said the ramp leading up to the platform at East Fork was too steep for elderly passengers and those in wheelchairs, particularly in winter.

The 'waiting room' on the station was a "glorified bus shelter”, there were no public phones or toilets and access to the station was poor.

Mr Hetherington said the train could use the main Orange station and all its facilities with minimum inconvenience to passengers.

"It would only add 10 minutes at the outside onto the journey and that could be made up for once the train reached the other side of Parkes,” he said.

However, a spokesman for Mr Scully responded to the association's letter by saying the proposal to use the Orange station would add half-an-hour to the trip.

"Unfortunately the increase in travel time in diverting the train to stop at Orange instead of Orange East Fork would not be acceptable to the majority of passengers,” he wrote.

He also said there would be insufficient passenger numbers to justify upgrading East Fork facilities.

The association, which has about 85 Orange members, is pursuing the cause and has written to Member for Orange Russell Turner and Orange City Council seeking their support. It would like to hear from community groups willing to support its cause.