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Sydney University has warned of the "serious impact" on thousands of students, staff and other commuters of a decision for trains on the Blue Mountains line to no longer stop at Redfern station, making their trips "lengthier and more challenging".
In a swipe at the state's transport agency, vice-chancellor Michael Spence said the decision for trains on the line to bypass Redfern in favour of Central Station had "added greatly to the university's already significant public transport pressures".
"We are disturbed that we were not consulted about such a significant change," he said in a letter to the state opposition.
Dr Spence said Transport Minister Andrew Constance had identified demand for trains "going through the roof", and "yet he had allowed a timetabling change which makes train travel for thousands of our students and staff lengthier and more challenging".
As a result of the changes, commuters travelling from the west on the Blue Mountains line now have to switch services at Strathfield, or travel to Central and then catch another train back to Redfern.
Redfern station is the major access point from trains to the university's campus at Camperdown. About 10,000 students and staff travel on trains on weekdays from western Sydney to Redfern where they walk to the university.
In a sign it has lost patience with the government's plans to improve transport links, Dr Spence has told the state opposition that "you have the University of Sydney's support in your ongoing advocacy on this vital transport issue".
"I know you will be advocating on behalf of those who will be suffering the ill-effects of this change," he wrote in the letter to Labor's transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay.
In response to questions from the Herald, Dr Spence said the detriment of the timetable changes was "especially staggering" given that commuters who travelled past Redfern to Central would save only three minutes at most on their journey.
"We will continue to ask the NSW government to take public transport access to our campuses seriously," he said.
Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle welcomed the vice-chancellor’s intervention.
“A month or so ago my office was inundated with concerns and questions from University of Sydney staff and students about the new timetable, so it is reassuring to see that the university’s management stands with the community against this bad decision to cut Redfern from our train services,” she said.
“A public intervention by the university’s vice chancellor is an extraordinary step to take against a state government. Obviously the usual private, direct and subtle approaches available to a major institution such as Sydney University have not worked and they’ve been left with no choice but to tip a bucket over the minister’s head in this most public way. This should be a wake-up call not just to minister Constance, but also to his boss, Premier Berejiklian, who should seriously consider whether she has the right person in her old job of transport.”
But Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins said the number of trains stopping at Redfern had actually risen by 11 per cent, which was in addition to frequent bus services between the station and Central.
"We've delivered the largest increase in capacity ever introduced on the train network. This means customers will have more options to travel to key education hubs, not fewer," he said.
Mr Collins said an evidence-based approach had been taken to developing the new timetable, which showed where and when commuters travelled.
"In the weekday morning peak, five times as many customers from Blue Mountains stations are travelling to Central rather than Redfern," he said.
Labor has vowed to review the new timetables and "correct the bias against western Sydney" if it is elected to government at the state election in 2019.
Ms McKay said Mr Constance had made life difficult for up to 10,000 students and thousands more who worked at the Australian Technology Park "and he didn't think to tell anyone about it".
A spokeswoman for Mr Constance said he would respond to Dr Spence's letter in the next week.
This article first appeared on www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au
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