Rail service split 'good' for the Hunter

THE move to split Newcastle and Hunter passenger rail services away from Sydney’s will improve services to the Hunter Region, the state government insists.

Under changes announced yesterday by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, RailCorp’s passenger services will be split into Sydney Trains and NSW Trains.

NSW Trains will take in all state government trains outside the Sydney metropolitan area, including the XPTs and other services run by Countrylink.

Sydney Trains on the northern line will end at Berowra, while NSW Trains will run all the way to Central Station.

The government also plans to cut 750 management jobs in the railways and move 870 railway cleaners into a specialist unit.

Mrs Berejiklian said none of the job cuts were in the Hunter.

She said the changes would take a year to 18months to implement. Rail services would be maintained in the meantime.

‘‘In addition to the creation of NSW Trains, Transport for NSW is currently undertaking the biggest rewrite of the rail timetable in history,’’ Mrs Berejiklian said.

‘‘This is not tinkering at the edges. We are starting from scratch to completely overhaul the timetable to ensure we maximise the capacity of the current network and put services in place where customers need them.’’

The new timetable would be in place by the end of 2013.

The Labor opposition and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union have criticised the changes but Hunter transport activists have been cautiously optimistic.

Long-time rail activists Bob Bell and Darrell Harris both said that the shake-up could benefit the region if the new timetables were designed to benefit Hunter commuters rather than the needs of Sydney.

Union organiser Mick Schmitzer said the union feared the changes could be a precurser to privatising some or all of the passenger services.

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