NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance caught a train on Thursday afternoon.
But rather than accepting an Illawarra MP’s invitation to ride a crowded South Coast Line service, the minister instead joined Premier Gladys Berejiklian to take one of Sydney’s new Waratah Series 2 trains for a test run.
The 30-minute train ride from Sydney Olympic Park to Central, a special service arranged as part of a government press conference, had few passengers – the pollies, their staffers, journalists, photographers and TV camera crews.
Coincidentally, the new train’s test run came on the same day the Mercury’s front page called on Mr Constance to catch the 3.24pm weekday Central to Kiama service, so he could speak with fed-up passengers and experience the South Coast Line commuter crush firsthand.
This newspaper even vowed to shout the minister his Opal fare (and Ms Berejiklian’s if she also wanted to jump on board), after Labor’s Illawarra spokesman Ryan Park called on Mr Constance to “get out of his ministerial car” and join him on an overcrowded Wollongong-bound train.
Mr Park described the minister’s Olympic Park to Central train ride, which arrived at the Sydney terminal about 1.15pm, as “absolute hypocrisy”.
“[The trip was at] a quiet time of the day, with no congestion; very different to what commuters experience in the afternoon on a 90-minute train back to the Illawarra,” he said.
Mr Park reiterated his earlier call for Mr Constance to “get out of the car, get out of doing the stunts” and catch the 3.24pm train “on what is one of the most congested rail lines … in NSW”.
A spokeswoman for the Transport Minister said: “We know demand for trains in the Illawarra and across the entire network has increased significantly, which is why each and every service is monitored so improvements can be made for customers where possible.”
“Since we came into Government in 2011 we added additional carriages on the South Coast Line to help address crowding issues – the majority of peak period services are now eight carriages long,” she said.
“We have also added more than 30,000 additional weekly public services across the transport network to help cater for the unprecedented growth.”
The spokeswoman said the government was investing in new intercity trains and “longer term solutions, including significant work to enable more services for the South Coast Line in the future”.
“All services to and from Central that are currently operated by four carriage trains will be progressively replaced by longer trains with the new InterCity fleet arrives,” she said.