In the not-too-distant future, we should get a pretty good indication of how Transport Minister Andrew Constance feels about the Illawarra.
In recent months, there’s been an increasing chorus of voices urging the minister to do something about crowded afternoon services on the South Coast line.
The 3.24pm and 3.54pm trains that leave Central bound for Wollongong each weekday afternoon are four-car services.
For years commuters have complained about how crowded they are, with some claiming to take their own folding chair on board while one person chose to use the toilet because it was the only seat available.
Transport for NSW has previously declined to release data that showed how crowded these trains were – because they were outside peak hour.
But data obtained through a Mercury freedom of information request showed they are indeed crowded – to the point where it’s standing room only in those four carriages.
Earlier this year commuter group Illawarra Rail Fail launched a petition calling for the government to take steps to solve the problem of overcrowding.
And last week, Kiama MP Gareth Ward chose to launch his own petition targeting the 3.24pm and 3.54pm services, and urging Mr Constance to add some extra carriages.
While there might not be an immediate solution, there is one that will present itself next year.
One that won’t cost the government a cent – and they’re always the solutions a government likes best.
In 2019, the New Intercity Fleet will roll out on the Newcastle Line, gradually replacing the existing trains.
Those very trains are quite capable of operating on the South Coast line – and could be used to upgrade those two four-carriage trains.
All Mr Constance has to do is say “yes, we’ll be reallocating eight carriages to put on those two trains”.
It doesn’t seem a hard thing for the minister to say – or do.
If he can’t do it, you can’t help but conclude that maybe he doesn’t like the Illawarra.