Community calls for trains
A COUNTRYLINK consultation roadshow seeking community feedback was never going to remain on-message once it hit Lismore yesterday.
A brave Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, Penny Sharpe, joined CountryLink general manager Greg McLeod to front frustrated rail advocates, local councillors and community representatives pushing for a return of passenger rail services to the Far North Coast.
It is some time since locals have seen a NSW transport or infrastructure minister on Northern Rivers soil, leading pundits to suggest Ms Sharpe must have drawn the short straw as she travels NSW by train on behalf of Transport Minister John Robertson.
Ms Sharpe listened carefully to audience members, empathising with their concerns and promising to address current problems with existing bus services, while promising to take larger concerns about the lack of public transport on the Northern Rivers back to the Minister.
However, most questioned the Government’s will to address that issue in safe state National party territory.
“Political will is usually just linked to the next election, while we need a comprehensive plan for transport in this region for the long term, not the short term,” one said.
Trains On Our Tracks president Karin Kolbe described the meeting as ‘simply another talkfest’.
“How many times do we have to tell them transport, transport, transport?” she asked.
“I’m up to my fourth minister since they cut the trains, and every time we get a new minister it seems we need another report, another inquiry.
“We’ve told them everything. They know what the issues are and it’s time to get on with it.”
Tony Davies, from the Northern Rivers Social Development Council, agreed, describing affordable transport as a ‘critical issue on the Northern Rivers’.
“With an aging population and average incomes being two-thirds that of Sydney, we really need to get far greater investment in transport options as everyone currently depends on cars,” he said.