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Echo Newspaper

General News

Petitioning to keep the AvonLink

By Rashelle Predovnik

Added on: November 21, 2013

AVON Valley residents and councillors took their fight to keep the AvonLink train service running to Parliament House on Wednesday where they presented petitions to Central Wheatbelt MLA Mia Davies and Moore MLA Shane Love.
The petition hand-over also featured a scale model of the AvonLink, which was brought down from Toodyay on a truck.
The politicians accepted the petitions, which jointly contained 3579 signatures condemning the State Government’s proposed closure of AvonLink.
The first AvonLink left Northam on September 24, 1995, with the service being operated by a single power car from the Prospector fleet.
The event attracted considerable fanfare, because it was the first new country passenger train service in Western Australia in 47 years.
Ms Davies said there was good justification for continuing the AvonLink service.
"The decision to discontinue the service contradicts the strategic vision and investment of both State and Federal Governments in the Avon Valley region, which is considered a growth area of the State,” she said.
The service has been flagged for closure on December 30 this year by the State Government as part of cost-saving measures outlined in its 2013-14 budget.
But extensive opposition to discontinuing AvonLink has been acknowledged by Ms Davies and Mr Love, who are working with local government authorities and Transport Minister Troy Buswell to reverse the decision.
Ms Davies said she had received overwhelming support for the continuation of AvonLink from leaders in the business community, Avon Valley residents and commuters.
She said the train offered a valuable and safe service for those unable to drive, catered for seniors, those with disabilities and youth.
Ms Davies said she had raised the issue with Mr Buswell and Minister for Regional Development Brendon Grylls as a matter of priority and would continue to advocate for the service to be retained.
A spokesperson for the Transport Minister said the changes made to the AvonLink service were a result of declining passenger numbers, with only about 30 passengers on each service, out of a total capacity of 130.
"In order to maximise value for taxpayers’ money and noting that the Avon Link service as it was operating at the time, was not delivering in this respect, we made a decision to replace it with a twice-daily return road coach service,” she said.
Nationals member for Moore Shane Love acknowledged AvonLink passenger numbers had been low in recent years, but maintained factors contributing to reduced patronage should be addressed by the State Government rather than simply terminating the service.
"The barriers to increasing patronage include inconvenient scheduling, expensive ticketing and limited marketing of the service to the public,” he said.
"Solutions could include increasing service frequency, aligning the fare structure with TransPerth zoning and introducing SmartRider ticketing technology.
"If the service was better promoted, its frequency increased to cater for school children, or a bus service integrated to help feed additional customers into the rail system, then I’m confident AvonLink patronage will improve.”
The spokesperson said Mr Buswell recently met with Ms Davies to discuss possible initiatives to increase patronage should the Government consider reinstating the service.

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