NEW TRAIN SERVICE IS AN 'EXPENSIVE PIPE DREAM'
I write in response to Llynda Nairn, Greens Candidate for Cessnock City Council's letter to the editor (Time to investigate restoring passenger train services, The Advertiser, 1/9/21).
I always find it amusing that whenever an election comes up a candidate puts up the old "reintroduce passenger trains to Cessnock" argument.
On the surface it seems popular and intuitively it seems to make sense, but the economic reality with a little bit of thought and research is very different. The South Maitland Railway is a coal line that would require significant investment to upgrade to carry passenger trains.
All the old platforms would require extensive redevelopment to accommodate modern trains and safety standards, whilst acquiring land for new commuter carparking facilities and associated infrastructure to go with it. All this comes with a multi-million-dollar price tag.
This is at a time when we don't even fill the current buses running along the same route and the bus is far more flexible in its choice of destinations.
It is my belief to justify this type of expenditure the population density of the Cessnock local government area would have to at least double to come anywhere close to the justification of such expenditure. The other consideration is commuter logistics and behaviour.
If you're from Kurri/Weston/Abermain, you're already in your car to drive to the station to go shopping in Maitland or Cessnock, why would you catch a train? When for ten minutes extra you and the kids are in the shopping complex carpark. Why would you do it? You wouldn't!
If you think it is such good idea you should do at minimum a rudimentary business case or better still you buy it and you run it!
Happy to advocate for the SMR to be retained as an active transport corridor but in my opinion a new train service is just an expensive populist pipe dream, that few people in the LGA would actually use, at great rate payer expense.
Darrin Gray, Ward D Councillor, Cessnock City Council
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