Train mayhem: commuters bombard Helensburgh

A parking space has been much harder to come by at Helensburgh station since the new train timetable was introduced last month.

The station, at the northern edge of the quiet suburb, has seen an influx of commuters parking in the car parks and neighbouring streets.

It is no coincidence that, while other station car parks in the north are empty, these two stations are suddenly much busier.

The new timetable, introduced on October 20, features four ‘‘express’’ services to Sydney during the morning peak period. Those trains stop at just two stations between North Wollongong and Sutherland –  Thirroul and Helensburgh.

Last week, the Mercury reported on the increase in the number of commuters driving to Thirroul to park and catch a train. Rail car parks on both sides of the station fill up early – with cars even parked on a raised concrete section in the middle of the overflow park – and so early, morning commuters have taken to parking along residential streets.

Like many others, a commuter is forced to park his car along Vera Street in Helensburgh and walk to the station.

The same appears to be happening at Helensburgh, which also has two car parks – a main one and an overflow  area.

Helensburgh resident and Wollongong councillor Greg Petty said he was aware that the station’s overflow car park was almost full by 7am each weekday.

‘‘So heaven help anyone who wants to get a train after 7am because there’s no parking,’’ Cr Petty said.

‘‘Through the neighbourhood forum, there’s been a lot of concerns with the buses because the roads are narrow – it’s an accident waiting to happen with the buses.’’

Cr Petty said the increased number of cars parking in the streets had made it much harder for buses to manoeuvre.

‘‘There’s illegal parking on the street,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m getting complaints that parking officers are fining people for parking on kerbs or on the narrow streets. [That means] the buses then can’t negotiate the street.’’

However, Cr Petty felt that building more car parks was just a Band-Aid solution and that improving the flow of trains on the rail network would provide a long-term solution.

‘‘We need a network solution, not a car parking solution,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t want to lose the stop of Helensburgh, because I think it provides a good service, but we’ve got to look past the parking as the issue and find a network solution.’’

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the express services were designed with the wishes of Illawarra residents in mind.

‘‘What the timetable shows, and what the people of the Illawarra made clear during consultation for the Long Term Transport Master Plan, is that people value express services and the time savings they provide,’’ she said.

‘‘Obviously though, by their very definition, express services cannot stop at every station and that is why we are providing express services for key locations and connecting local services for customers from other stations.

‘‘The timetable was developed by transport experts based on demand, considering all relevant issues, and I’m confident that while some people may have concerns, the vast majority of customers are better off.’’

Cars line Tunnel Road in Helensburgh as commuter carparks fill up. Picture KIRK GILMOUR

Cars line Tunnel Road in Helensburgh as commuter carparks fill up. Picture KIRK GILMOUR

She also scotched rumours that this was part of a government strategy to reduce the patronage at smaller stations on the South Coast line ahead of eventually closing them.

‘‘There is no plan to close any of these stations,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.