10 May 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (18:22): My electorate of Blue Mountains sits within the commuter belt of Sydney. Many locals have opted for the lifestyle that our beautiful part of the world offers, but they still need to move around and make the journey to Penrith, Parramatta or the city to earn a living. Our community is often labelled with the Greater Sydney tag, despite the preference of many Blue Mountains residents to differentiate the uniqueness of our region's amenity and our world heritage environment from the urbanscape that exists once you cross the Nepean River. Regardless of local preference, however, the Greater Sydney tag remains. Yet it is curious that our assumed metropolitan status is serviced by what can increasingly be described as a substandard rail service. My office has been inundated these past months with emails and phone calls from unhappy commuters, frustrated and angry at times, who are significantly disadvantaged by drastically reduced rail services to the Blue Mountains.

We all acknowledge the challenges for any government in navigating adverse weather conditions that result in detrimental impacts on infrastructure. But if we are going to be brutally honest, the issues we have seen on our rail network this year so far shine a glaring spotlight on a severe lack of planned, decent infrastructure support and maintenance by the New South Wales Government. Railway networks do not just miraculously keep themselves functioning and primed to deal with unforeseen challenges; they need to be managed by a government that understands the necessity of long-term planning and maintenance. But therein lies the problem: The Government has a shocking track record with transport infrastructure projects. I am reminded of this regularly when considering the new "fat trains" intercity fleet that is still not ready for service millions of dollars and more than two years after they were promised to be rolled out. The Government cannot seem to finish infrastructure projects on time or on budget so I guess it is to be expected that it will perform equally as appallingly when it comes to the ongoing maintenance of that infrastructure and related services.

Repeatedly I have made representations to the New South Wales Government for improved trains and services to the Blue Mountains. I advocated tirelessly on the many issues associated with the new intercity fleet, beginning many years ago, when we were forced to endure the reign of the previous incompetent Minister for Transport. I now continue with the equally as blundering current Minister. On 2 February this year, I wrote to Minister Elliott on behalf of my constituents to express their frustrations regarding the reduction of train services. I emphasised that the decrease in services is having profoundly detrimental impacts on commuters, in some cases adding hours to an already long day. Disappointingly, over three months later, I am yet to receive a response.

My community wants efficient and reliable rail services that meet our needs. It is not a big ask. We have a railway line that is considered part of the Sydney network, and yet our services do not measure up. The Government will, of course, regurgitate the usual spin about unprecedented weather events and COVID-19 et cetera. But, if we are to examine this issue truthfully, we must come back to the years of neglect. This Government seems to prefer the idea of privatising. That is what we are worried about.

Let me share a few words from Blue Mountains commuters. Josh says, "I missed the 6.33 p.m. from Central, only to find that the 7.18 p.m. also no longer exists, so the next one to Blaxland wasn't until 8.18 p.m. That's nearly a two-hour wait for a train after missing one at the back end of the evening peak. It's madness. I worry that, if we do not get them reinstated ASAP, we might lose them for good." Edward says, "Now that services are seemingly back to normal, the regular 4.32 and 5.32 trains from Central have disappeared from the schedule." Clive sums up succinctly: "The current service represents the poorest I have experienced in many years." Victor says, "Too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. Seems the rail line just can't handle anything." Jen says, "I have been commuting a lot of years. It takes longer to get to Central now than it did in the nineties." Damian says, "There has been no communication from the Government about how long this reduced service timetable will be in place. It's having an impact on people's commute time in a really negative way." And Ben says, "The train system is a complete shambles and must be fixed."

It is clear that the New South Wales Government has lost control of the Transport portfolio. My community is sick and tired of the myriad of excuses we are being fed. We want our rail services returned to the pre-COVID timetable, which better served our commuters' needs, and we want the New South Wales Government to invest in adequate maintenance and long-term planning so that we do not see these mammoth disruptions into the future. I take this opportunity to thank all the transport workers and the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union who represents them. We are grateful for all that they do. We know that they are up against it, dealing with this disconnected, uncaring and incompetent Government.