The trial of an extra stop for express services at Austinmer station is a big hit, if the main car park is any indication.
Last week, there were just three cars in the main car park on the western side of the station.
On Wednesday, just four days into the start of the three-month trial of express services stopping at the station, there were 18 cars parked there.
That’s an increase of 500 per cent – and quite possibly the most cars that car park has seen since the revised train timetable took effect in October 2013.
There was also a slight increase in the number of cars parked in the smaller eastern car park – up three cars to 13.
Overall, the number of vacant spaces at Austinmer station dropped from 35 to 17.
The sudden spike in people using Austinmer station is a result of last month’s announcement by Transport Minister Andrew Constance that the government would conduct a three-month trial where 10 express trains would stop there.
The trial came after public campaigning by the Thirroul Transport Committee and lobbying of the minister by Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward.
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said it was too early to tell whether the trial was a success.
“We have begun monitoring Opal ticketing figures, car parking levels, passenger numbers and train loads to analyse how the extra stop at Austinmer impacts general service levels,” the spokeswoman said.
“At this stage we are unable to make assumptions about the success of the trial given the limited time the services have been in place.”
Mr Ward was pleased that there was such a rapid take-up of the stops at Austinmer.
“That’s really good and that’s really positive,” Mr Ward said.
“Obviously the additional express stops that we argued for are being utilised
“I think that number of cars in the car park is justification for the actions I took as parliamentary secretary and the advocacy of the Thirroul Transport Committee.
“Lets see if the end result of the trial was that this was a popular move.
“If it is then it will be a permanent feature in the timetable rather than just a trial.”
The trial was aimed at alleviating parking congestion in the northern suburb of Thirroul.
The October 2013 timetable overhaul saw most South Coast stations serviced by feeder trains, which would then link up with express Sydney services from hubs like Thirroul.
However, a large number of commuters chose to ignore the feeder trains and drive straight to Thirroul and park in the streets all day.