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An outback tourism body calls for an overhaul of two rural passenger rail services, with figures revealing taxpayers are forking out $30 million a year to keep them running.
ABC News can reveal each passenger trip on the Westlander (Brisbane-Charleville) is subsidised about $4,000 while each passenger trip on the Inlander (Townsville-Mount Isa) is subsidised about $3,500, not including concessions.
The total cost in subsidies to the State Government for these two services alone has blown out more than $30 million for the last financial year.
A one way trip from Brisbane to Charleville costs an adult passenger about $148.50, leaving Queensland Rail to pay thousands of dollars more for the actual price.
The subsidy cost for the Westlander service has almost doubled from figures released in 2013, from $2,236 to $4,007.
The cost for the Inlander is up 70 per cent, from $2,038 to $3,436.
The Westlander made 3,677 passenger journeys and the Inlander made 4,526 in the 2015/16 financial year.
Subsidies per train
|Estimated total cost||Estimated passengers||Subsidy per passenger|
Source: Minister Stirling Hinchliffe – Answer to Question on Notice
The new figures were released in an answer to a Question on Notice to Minister for Transport Stirling Hinchliffe.
Quilpie Shire Mayor Stuart Mackenzie, who is also the chairman of the Outback Queensland Tourism Association, said Queensland authorities should look to other models being used around the country like The Ghan passenger train.
Tickets for The Ghan are a lot more expensive but passengers enjoy a more luxurious trip.
In January 2015, the sleeping and restaurant cars were cut from the Westlander and Inlander, leaving passengers with basic facilities.
That has led to a drop off in passenger numbers.
"You get a higher paying customer which would improve those efficiencies which would hopefully start to knock those subsidies back," said Mayor Mackenzie.
"As it is now, it's a means of getting from A to B and that really is not how trains are seen outside of the major urban areas in Australia,"
"It should be seen as a tourism product in itself; so a great way to travel for tourists but also to provide a level of service that people are prepared to paid for."
Any service cut a blow for struggling regionsBut Cr Mackenzie warned cutting the services completely would deliver a blow to struggling regional towns.
"It's critical," he said.
"It's been never more so in the last few years with the grazing industry and then the resource industry hit.
"The tracks are there, it's about getting good quality services and people interested everywhere to use them."
[color=#000000][size=1]PHOTO:[/size][/color] Gulflander train parked in the Croydon Station in north-west Queensland. (File photo)
A spokeswoman for Mr Hinchliffe said the services were an essential public service.
"Queenslanders use rail services for a variety of reasons, including visiting family and friends, travelling to medical appointments or taking holidays," she said.
"Some of Queensland Rail's passengers are vulnerable people, including the elderly, infirm and people for whom other modes of travel may not be suitable.
"Queensland Rail allocates the overall funding appropriately across the business and they advise that last year they increased the allocation to the travel services by approximately $40 million."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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