A social scientist specialising in rail transport and regional development has added to speculation about outcomes for the Riverina from high speed rail proposals.
Charles Sturt University adjunct associate professor in sociology Ian Gray said a rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane would likely neglect many regional areas.
“The rule of thumb is that the faster the train, the less frequently it stops,” he said.
“We have an XPT service between Sydney and Melbourne which does stop at some of the smaller places, including Culcairn or Henty in this area, but I can’t imagine a very fast train ever stopping there.”
Professor Gray said the most pressing issue at present was one for NSW Trainlink after the NSW government predicted the current XPTs would likely be worn out within the year.
“In NSW, there’s a threat we will lose the XPT trains altogether,” he said.
The Wagga-based professor was also concerned about proposals to increase unattended stations in regional NSW to 11.
“The question of staffing is very much here and now, whereas discussion about fast trains has been going on for 30 years and could go on for a while longer,” he said.
“The overall trend has been a slow decline and reducing the staffing at stations is likely to mean the stations won’t be open for as long.
“Station staff don’t just sell tickets but also help people to maintain safety.
“The large proportion of travellers are elderly and we should think about children around stations also.”
Professor Gray said community rail partnerships in the United Kingdom could be among solutions to “an absence of policy for regional rail services in NSW”.
“Community members co-ordinate with tourism activities and liaise between rail operators and the local community.” he said.
“One thing they do in Britain is they have beautification programs where they install art works around the station and people visit them not just to catch trains.
“There’s more to be done to make stations like Wagga more of a transport hub.
“Where they are good rail services, it boosts the local economy.”