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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3652 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

and enjoy social occasions. For many people, air travel is in most instances unaffordable, while coach travel is physically difficult. Furthermore, as a government service, the provision of concessions is a fundamental dimension of the service, so rail plays a particular role in the lives of students and pensioners.

While it could be argued that substituting state rail coaches for trains would allow for the same concessional structure, it is inarguable that patronage would drop even further once the trains stopped running. In order to maintain a service, then, we may require some further commitment from the ACT government in addition to the submissions and negotiations mentioned in this motion. In regard to Ms Dundas's amendment, while I am not sure how best the ACT government can encourage greater use of the rail link, I do believe it should be investigated.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (5.41): Mrs Dunne has raised an important issue. It is an issue of significant concern to a number of Canberrans. Indeed, I have had a number of representations on the matter, as I am sure most members have. I think it is appropriate that the Assembly indicates through its deliberations that this matter demands the attention of the Assembly and requires that we do all we can not to lose this very vital service for the people of Canberra.

Mr Speaker, I wish to indicate that I have an amendment to Mrs Dunne's motion and to foreshadow that I will move it in a moment. In terms of the substantive matters that go to the motion moved by Mrs Dunne about proposals to limit the number of train services, it is the case that the train service between Canberra and Sydney carries a significant number of Canberrans. It caters specifically for pensioners, disabled people, other people who find it difficult to travel by coach or air and numbers of Canberrans who simply enjoy or appreciate train travel and would choose it as a method of travel over and above road or air.

In 2002 the Canberra-Sydney rail service carried 84,595 passengers from Canberra and, interestingly, 85,660 people to Canberra, a total of around 170,000 rail journeys. That compares to 43,000 bus passengers and 1.8 million air passengers travelling to and from Canberra. There are around 170,000 rail journeys a year between Canberra and Sydney. Interestingly, more people come to Canberra by rail than leave it.

It is important that we maintain the rail service that we have. As members know, I wrote to Premier Carr as soon as the service suspension was announced, and I advised him of the ACT government's concerns about the suspension, asking him to ensure that the rail service would be resumed.

I share Mrs Dunne's disappointment that CountryLink, whilst returning the service, has effectively reduced it by a third. In the format that it was in, the train service met a very significant community need. I am also concerned, as are other members, about the implications of the Parry report for the remaining services on the Canberra-Sydney route. It is completely inappropriate to eliminate the train service. We all know that, and it cannot be gainsaid.

In effect, it does not need to be debated-we should not even be having this debate-that this is a fundamentally important link between Canberra, the nation's capital, and

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