Every day literally thousands of Illawarra residents endure the long commute from Wollongong to Sydney and back. Getting up at 6am in the morning and getting home at 7pm every night is life for many Illawarra parents and students. It’s what they’ve become accustomed to.
I know it makes the day so much harder – I know because I spent years working in Sydney and travelling from Wollongong. You need look no further than the platforms of Woonona, Corrimal or Thirroul to see the amount of people in our community who spend nearly 4 hours per day on a train.
Labor didn’t do everything right during our last term of Government here in NSW however one thing we didn’t do is forget the commuters of the Illawarra. Currently, express services operate from Wollongong to Central nearly every half hour in peak time – while an all stops service also operates every half hour. We recognised how tough it was to commit to work or study so far away from home – and that’s why a timetable was put in place that supported everyone. Whether you were a young student who wanted a quick train from Wollongong or a working mum who needed a train that stopped at one of the smaller stations in the northern Illawarra suburbs, the current timetable worked.
However, this is all set to change if the O’Farrell Government goes ahead with the draft timetable that has been released. This is an issue that should be beyond politics – and that’s why I’ve written to the Minister asking her to meet with me so we can discuss a way forward for Illawarra commuters with a timetable that works for everyone.
Under the proposed changes, the express train from Wollongong to Sydney has been completely gutted. The train usually stops at only 5 stations between Wollongong and Central, however will stop at some 14 stops under the proposed model. This means Illawarra commuters will be spending more and more time on the train each and every day.
Services to smaller stations in the North of Wollongong will also be cut if the timetable goes ahead, with commuters at stations such as Towradgi and Woonona restricted to three trains to Central each morning – which will arrive at the obscure times of 5.02AM, 6.42AM and 9.06AM respectively. This means that if workers want to arrive at Central close to 9AM – they’ll be forced to change trains and wait long periods for connecting services. Effectively, they’ll be worse off than they are now. In a time when we should be making leaps forward in transport, Illawarra commuters will be going backwards.
Unsurprisingly commuters are outraged at this Government for the proposed timetable will heavily impact on their home and work life balance.
Put simply, this new timetable doesn’t meet the needs of nearly every Illawarra resident who catches a train. The train network is too important for both sides to play politics – and that’s why I want to work with the Minister to ensure the people of this region aren’t left sitting on the train.
Ryan Park is the State Member for Keira.