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The NSW Government backtracks on a decision to remove staff from regional train stations, saying the announcement was premature.
Under a planned review that proposed to reduce customer service staff, eight stations were set to be unstaffed, which included Parkes, Broken Hill, Wellington, Griffith, Macksville, Yass Junction and Nambucca Heads.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance has abandoned the plans and said the eight affected stations would continue to be staffed to meet customers' needs.
The plan sparked concerns it would pose a safety risk to customers, and many community groups argued removing customer service staff would have a big impact on regional tourism.
Isolation concern in state's far westThe Nationals Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries, who represents Broken Hill in the state's far west, lobbied against the proposal and said it should never have been released.
There are plenty of people who will tell you about sitting on the platform in Blayney on a cold winter's night and it continues to be important for the community to have access to those public transport services.
Blayney Town Association president Tamara Miller
Mr Humphries said there may still be changes to the way stations were staffed.
"The stations will be [staffed] depending on what the serviceability is like," Mr Humphries said.
"It's premature to even discuss staffing.
"In some cases it may even increase. My view is and I've said that to the Department and the Minister that it's important that we've got people there to meet and greet."
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) raised concerns about Broken Hill's isolation and said under the original plan the next attended station would be 700 kilometres away.
Petition on mid-north coastTwo-and-a-half-thousand Macleay Valley residents on the state's mid-north coast signed a petition against the changes.
The Nationals' Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey said the government had listened to community concerns.
"That was the main issue that people raised with us," Ms Pavey said.
"They wanted the same coverage of staff that they're getting now.
"We were able to put other ideas to New South Wales Trainlink and to the Transport Minister. I am so glad that the Government has listened to that concern and responded."
Union says Federal election prompted reversalThe RTBU said customer service staff were "walking encyclopaedias" and were vital for people travelling on regional train networks.
State secretary Alex Claassens said, while it was a State Government issue, he believed the looming Federal election played a role in prompting the backtrack on plans.
"The Government is getting a little bit nervous, they're concerned about what the implications will be if they continue to go out there and upset the community," Mr Claassens said.
"The reality is that a lot of people who vote don't always understand the difference between state and federal.
"What you see quite consistently out there is people just get really annoyed and they take it out on any politician they see."
The union said it was concerned the Government was still partially pressing ahead with plans, including the potential cuts to working hours for staff.
Central-west residents relieved by announcementResidents of Blayney in the Central West said there were significant concerns the plan would have hampered access to ticketing services, particularly for elderly people.
Blayney Town Association president Tamara Miller said she was happy the Government recognised the importance of staffing the local station.
"It's something in our community that's always been very important," Ms Miller said.
"Going back in history there are plenty of people who will tell you about sitting on the platform in Blayney on a cold winter's night and it continues to be important for the community to have access to those public transport services.
"The community of Blayney's very quickly jumped behind this one in writing letters and petitions to Minister [Andrew] Constance in Sydney, so the whole community will continue to keep a close eye to make sure it remains there."
The Government said it would enhance security at the eight stations, with new CCTV cameras and customer help points providing 24-hour assistance.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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