Picton commuters lose in train timetable reshuffle

Wollondilly commuters have got the raw end of the deal in the state government’s train timetable reshuffle.

A popular train service from Campbelltown to Goulburn via Picton has been cancelled.

The new Southern Highlands line timetable shows the 6.19pm service is no longer available as of November 26.

Train commuters will need to catch the 5.50pm or 6.44pm service from Campbelltown which arrive at Picton at 6.18pm and 7.12pm, respectively.

Picton resident George Mitrovic commutes to the city and is calling on Transport Minister Andrew Constance to reinstate the 6.19pm service.

“The 6.19pm service is fed by three city trains which are all full,” he said.

“The 6.44pm service will be fed by six city trains that are full.

“I will arrive home half an hour later which makes for an incredibly long day.

“I catch the 6.38am train from Picton and I won’t be getting home until just before 8pm.

“I’ll be spending four and a half hours a day commuting.

“This change affects hundreds of people.

“We have got the wrong end of the pineapple.”

Mr Mitrovic said commuters would start driving to Campbelltown station which would impact the roads and cars.

He said the change was a massive inconvenience because many would not be able to leave work early and therefore would have to wait.

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell said he had received an “overwhelming volume of correspondence” about the changes.

“I share their concern and frustration,” he said.

Mr Rowell has blamed the inconvenient reshuffle on the prioritisation of freight trains over passenger services.

The federal government has a contract with the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which manages most of Australia's interstate rail network.

“To get more services means the ARTC needs to give more slots to the state government for passengers,” Mr Rowell said.

“Sadly to date, this has not occurred and we as a state government are limited on the improvements that can be made due to the restrictions by the ARTC.

“To that end, I again call on the federal government to examine a fairer, more equitable arrangement in terms of passenger train services.

“It is simply not good enough that we are expected to take our fair share of growth only to have essential services such as trains, be hampered by this crazy deal that was struck two decades ago.

“I am determined to reach a better outcome. I encourage everyone to contact me to let me know how the ARTC restrictions affect them so I can add their concerns to the many already received.”

Mr Rowell said he would be “like a dog with a bone” on the issue and would not stop until it was resolved.

Mr Rowell said Transport for NSW would be conducting community research amongst Southern Highlands and Southern Tablelands rail customers and the information received would help deliver future timetable improvements.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said the timetable changes meant customers travelling to and from the city would benefit from “improved connections, resulting in less waiting time and more reliable journeys”.

“Wollondilly customers travelling from or changing trains at Campbelltown and Macarthur stations will benefit from more than 200 extra services each week on the Airport and South Line in non-peak times,” he said.

“There will also be an extra 20 express trains per week in peak hour from Campbelltown and Macarthur to the city via the T8 Airport and South Line.

“The rail timetable must balance many competing demands and there are significant constraints on this part of the network including competing freight, regional and suburban services.

“In addition, all of our train fleet is being used in peak periods, which means that there’s no quick fix.”

An ARTC spokesman said the Southern Highlands line is used for long distance passenger, intercity passenger, intermodal interstate freight, coal trains, mineral, grain and other freight trains.

“A key characteristic of the corridor is that peak passenger periods do overlap with a number of key interstate intermodal freight services,” he said.

“It is critical that freight services also access the Sydney metropolitan area during this same period and to exit prior to the afternoon peak period because of freight curfews through the metropolitan Sydney rail system.

“As a result we work hard to ensure all services during peak times run as closely as possible to time in order to reach their destinations.

“ARTC has not been asked by NSW TrainLink for path availability or extra train path services on the Southern Highlands line but we are in initial discussions regarding future passenger demand on this corridor.

“Passenger service train paths are preserved as part of the lease agreement with the state government and provided preferential time slots in the overall train plan.”