A war of words has broken out over changes to the Illawarra’s train timetables, with Kiama MP Gareth Ward hitting back at Labor’s criticism of the number of services running to stations in the northern suburbs.
Mr Ward accused Keira MP Ryan Park of ‘‘scaremongering’’ over the NSW government’s timetable, because he last week told the Mercury it was a ‘‘disaster’’ that northern Illawarra residents had been overlooked in favour of those in Mr Ward’s electorate.
‘‘Far from the doomsday analysis of the Labor member for Keira, the new timetable actually delivers a better deal for local rail commuters and I certainly make no apology for fighting for better services for my local constituents,’’ Mr Ward said.
Mr Park’s comments were originally made following an analysis of the government’s own Bureau of Transport Statistics, which showed there were far more rail commuters in Wollongong’s north than in Kiama.
Based on the 2011 census, the figures showed there were 637 inner-city commuters living between Stanwell Park and Thirroul and just 75 commuters living in the coastal strip from Minnamurra to Gerringong.
In the north, 400 people commute by rail compared to just 32 in the Kiama area.
However, Mr Ward said his government’s new timetable would deliver faster trips and more regular trains for ‘‘the vast majority of customers’’.
‘‘Customers travelling longer distances will generally notice fewer stops and reduced journey times.
‘‘For example, a commuter taking a daily return journey from Kiama to Sydney can save up to 65 minutes a week, and from Wollongong, up to 40 minutes a week, depending on what train they catch.’’
‘‘Under the new timetable, local trains which run between Port Kembla and Thirroul have been extended to Waterfall, improving connections for customers travelling between local stations or heading in toward the city,’’ Mr Ward said.
The new timetable comes into force on October 20.