THE local lobby group that secured Bathurst’s daily return train service to Sydney has begun its new infrastructure push.
Rail Action Bathurst met with the Minister for Transport Andrew Constance in April and has been invited to meet with the minister again before the end of the year as it lobbies for improvements to – or a complete replacement of - the Bathurst Bullet train.
The group has also written to the minister seeking funding for a study into a realignment of the track between Bathurst and Lithgow to reduce travel times.
Chairman John Hollis said Rail Action Bathurst’s first choice is a new train to make the journey back and forth to Sydney each day.
Failing that, he said, “we will be looking at better fitted-out carriages, better quality seating, facilities such as Wi-Fi and power points and renovated toilets”.
A better timetable for the Bullet – which leaves Bathurst at 5.49am on weekdays and 7.25am on weekends – was also discussed with the minister during the April meeting, Mr Hollis said.
As the Bullet makes its run down into the Sydney basin from the Blue Mountains, it “holds back” to accommodate the train that is running in front of it, Mr Hollis said.
With a change to the timetable, that holding back would not be necessary and the three-and-a-half hour journey to Sydney could be reduced, Mr Hollis believes.
Mr Hollis said Rail Action Bathurst had been invited to meet the minister and the CEO of NSW Trains before the end of the year to discuss “in depth” the improvements being sought for the Bullet.
Asked what he thought of the chances of those improvements being made, Mr Hollis was quietly optimistic.
“I'm confident he [the minister] will give it favourable consideration,” he said.
Rail Action Bathurst has form when it comes to defying expectations.
The beginning of the Bathurst Bullet service in October 2012 – after the need had been talked about for years – was seen by many as a victory for persistence for the group’s members.
Mr Hollis said the original train line between Tarana and Rydal had been straighter, but its gradient was too steep for bigger goods train and the line was adjusted.
He said the group hoped to see the line straightened again to improve travel times, though he acknowledged it would be a long-term project.
“We have written to the minister asking him to allocate a budget for a study into the most cost-effective and technical way to streamline the alignment between Lithgow and Bathurst,” he said.
After a period of decline for rail, Mr Hollis said governments seemed to again be recognising its importance to communities.
“If you go back to the days when rail came here, it played a very prominent part in the development of the Central West,” he said.
And he said it could do that again.