Representatives from NSW Trainlink recently visited Quirindi to update Liverpool Plains Shire Council (LPSC) on proposed options to improve transport links between Tamworth, Werris Creek, Quirindi, Willow Tree, the Hunter Valley and Newcastle. There are also proposed options for services from Tamworth to Port Macquarie and Tamworth to Dubbo that may benefit Shire residents.
“LPSC has been calling for improved public transport links for a number of years so it is encouraging to see proposals finally on the table,” said Mayor Andrew Hope.
“While we have been seeking the extension of the current Newcastle - Scone service to Tamworth, lack of rollingstock means that option isn’t feasible at least until the order for new country trains is delivered in the early 2020s. While the new proposals do necessitate a change from coach to bus at either Scone or Muswellbrook they stand to provide better opportunities than we currently have. Proposals that are introduced, and I understand they hope to start them around Easter time, will be on trial, so it will be a case of use it or lose it. If it is well used we may have an argument for trains all the way in the future,” he said.
Councillor Hope said that although the survey held to find out people’s preferred services had closed he was encouraging community members to let NSW Trainlink know their thoughts by calling the project team on (02) 9232 9531 during business hours or emailing NSWTrainLinkCommunities@transport.nsw.gov.au.
“If we are to get these services we need to be proactive,” he said.
At the consultation meeting, Councillors Black and Lobsey and Mr Stewart made some positive suggestions and indicated some problems they saw with the proposal.
“We told NSW Trainlink that to be successful they should trial both the 4.57am and 8.25am ex Quirindi services and the trains that depart Newcastle at 4.32pm and 5.59pm on the return. It was also suggested that they must operate Monday to Friday. If they are succesful we can look at weekend services,” Councillor Black said.
“They indicated that they are looking at the same ‘country fares scale’ that apply on the Explorer service, that is $70.94 return for an adult and $48.96 for a child. We told them bluntly that such a fare scale would doom the service to failure, that the coach/train is interurban in nature and passengers should be able to utilise an Opal card, although a small extra charge for the portion Quirindi to Scone would be reasonable. In reality, if people can travel from Bathurst to Sydney and return for $14.50, $70.94 Quirindi – Newcastle return is highway robbery.
“We also requested they provide a stop in Currabubula,” Councillor Black said.
Councillor Hope said that if NSW Trainlink made the fare structure more equitable and affordable the service should prove very popular.
“Additionally, the services from Newcastle northbound also provide ample time for people from the Hunter to do a day return to the Liverpool Plains or Tamworth so providing us with an opportunity to encourage day visits to our region which would help drive economic development through increased tourism,” he said.
“We have fought long and hard for improved transport links and it would be a crying shame if the trials failed because what is provided is too expensive for it to be an attractive option,” he continued.
“I’d like to thank member for Tamworth, Kevin Anderson, for the effort he has made to reach this point. I’ll update him on our concerns and hopefully he can help us achieve a succesful outcome,” Councillor Hope concluded.
Proposed timetables can be found here https://transportnsw.info/news/2017/trials-of-new-public-transport-options-for-regional-nsw