A common theme of pro rail trail letters last week was a question of whether rail is justified until such time as existing bus services are ‘overflowing’.
The issue of patronage is critical, but care needs to be taken in observations of the numbers of people using the current bus services. Let me explain.
There are numerous bus services in just about every town within the region. These services move in, out and around each of these locations, but importantly there are no effective public transport services that link these centres so that people can travel between these towns.
If regular services existed between towns, then the isolated services around each of these towns would greatly expand the travel options for residents in these towns and increase the numbers of people using the local services.
Until such time as these services are linked, the numbers of people using local services will be limited and mean that such services operate on the margins of viability.
The great value of the rail line is that it links all but one of the major towns right across the region.
There is no doubt a significant unmet demand for public transport. This has very real impacts on our families. Young people (and others) are restricted in their ability to attend regional education, training and employment that ultimately restrict the economies and resilience of our communities.
Add to that the cost of congestion, pollution and delays and the lack of regional rail services clearly disadvantages all towns across the region.
With 4.5 million tourist visitors moving across the region, the ‘viability’ of rail is quite different than any other region, yet the potential of tourism visitors subsidising a rail services has been expressly excluded from existing patronage studies.
Let’s not spend $50 million to rip up such valuable infrastructure for a walking track that can not possibly cater to the diverse transport needs of our region.
Spend the money on a regional rail link and watch the numbers of people using local bus services expand greatly.
This happened in Perth where patronage increased by 13 per cent across the whole of the suburban network within six months after a southern rail link was completed
Cr Basil Cameron, Goonengerry