COMMUNITY action group, Illawarra Rail Fail (IRF) say it would give the transport portfolio to the Greens or Sustainable Australia parties after conducting a survey ranking candidates for next weekend’s NSW election.
In February IRF asked candidates for the March 23 election in the electorates of Heathcote, Keira, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama to commit to a series of pledges to improve the South Coast Rail Line.
The 11 pledges ranged from simple actions like committing to a timetable review to supporting big infrastructure projects like completion of the Thirroul escarpment tunnel.
The Greens candidates from the five electorates supported all 11 pledges and the Sustainable Australia candidates in Keira, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama (there is no Sustainable Australia candidate for Heathcote) also supported all the pledges.
Independent candidate for the seat of Wollongong Nikola Nastoski supported nine out of the 11 pledges. Several candidates also offered their own individual pledges on top of the 11 suggested by IRF.
Greens candidate for Keira, Kaye Osborne pledged to support the introduction of WiFi on trains as did independent Nikola Nastoski.
IRF spokesperson Bronwyn Batten said the picture provided by both major parties though is not so clear. Ms Batten said both the ALP and Liberal candidates provided IRF with their party political response instead of specifically addressing the individual pledges.
Labor’s response aligned with the IRF pledges in their commitment to build lifts at Unanderra, allocate $50 million to the Maldon-Dombarton line and to prioritise rail over road by redirecting funds from the F6 extension into the Sydney to Bomaderry rail corridor. They would seek to use these funds for improvements which reduced travel times, increased the frequency of service and increase passenger comfort.
Labor also pledged to review timetables but did not specifically address the need to look at the connectivity of services and community input to the review.
Labor’s transport policies also include free travel for children under 16 and reducing the airport station access fee.
Ms Batten said by only providing their election platform the ALP failed to address basic issues in the IRF pledges like whether they would enforce pick up only stops so they only clearly addressed six out of the 11 pledges.
The Liberal policy platform outlined a general $50 billion investment in transport infrastructure across the state (it is unknown if this includes investments in toll roads) and also included a commitment to upgrade 44 weekend services from four carriage trains to eight carriage trains from January 2019.
The Government have said they will address the lack of seating capacity on the new fleet by ordering additional carriages to lengthen trains from eight to 10 carriages, but the IRF believe this will still leave a shortage of some 80 or so seats compared to the capacity of the current fleet.
The Liberals have also committed to upgrading Fairy Meadow, Towradgi and Bellambi Stations, but no time-frames have been given for these works.
Like the ALP the Liberal Party’s general policy position failed to specifically address IRF’s pledges and was merely an outline of their election policy.
Ms Batten said as such it completely ignored several issues IRF raised in the pledges such as a timetable review with community input and enforcing pick up only services. The liberal party only positively addressed one out of the 11 IRF pledges.
“Public transport policy will be a significant factor in this election” Ms Batten said. The IRF said the Greens and Sustainable Australia Candidates in all electorates along with the Independent candidate for Wollongong are committed to improving the state of services on the South Coast Line.
In terms of the major parties, Labor’s policy position is significantly stronger than the Government’s but Ms Batten said it was disappointing that both of the major parties failed to tailor their responses to the specific questions IRF was asking.
“If this were a job interview they would be failing to address most of the selection criteria,” Ms Batten said.