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The petition was started by Mercy Graham after she moved from Kuranda to Cairns for work due to the lack of public transport options. Mercy said she keeps watching the Kuranda Scenic Rail roll past empty every day and thought it was a waste.
“I decided to start a petition, to get some regular transport options between Kuranda and Cairns for locals,” she said
“It needs to be an affordable option, at the moment Queensland Rail offers 20 per cent off for locals which is still about $40.00 one way.”
In its first week, the petition had garnered over 1000 signatures and Mercy said they would like to get over 3000 signatures.
“With the train often empty and a lack of alternatives, a train targeted at locals would contribute to public transport options for locals and encourage movement and business economy,” she said
“We are hoping for a couple of carriages or for some new services that would transport locals from Kuranda and surrounds to their workplace in Cairns.
“We want Queensland Rail to offer these services at the same rates that you would normally charge people to get on a bus, we are looking for public transport prices.”
Mercy claims that many older people are afraid to travel on the range and that younger people are missing out.
“Some kids are excluded because they can’t attend sporting events or access The Esplanade or the movies, while the train goes direct to Cairns Central," she said.
“It would allow Cairns people to come up for the day at their own leisure and also allows residents in Kuranda to spend more time in Cairns.
“Let’s give it a test and see what people need.”
Ms Graham said other options could be rolled out later if the train proved to be a success.
“If there was a late train, people in Kuranda could experience the bars and restaurants in Cairns and still get the train home, it would change the whole landscape,” she said.
“The Kuranda range is stifled and dangerous, a lot of locals are nervous to drive it.”
Ranjini Rusch who runs the Affordable Public Transport Kuranda Facebook page said that traders still wanted the tourist trade but locals needed cheap and reliable transport between Cairns and Kuranda.
“The infrastructure is already there, it’s a win win situation, it will take pressure of the range, it will allow people to commute, it will encourage more people from Cairns to visit Kuranda and it will also help the local cassowary population that is currently being decimated by traffic,” she said
“The current transport options have disengaged Kuranda from the Cairns community.
“Everyone we have spoken to has been in favour of the idea.”
Ms Graham and Ms Rusch said they both had fond memories of catching the train to Cairns to go to school nearly 30 years ago.
“We don’t have easy access to Cairns or vice-versa,” she said
“People have been talking about this for a while and because it’s owned by Queensland Rail people have put it into the too hard basket.
“If we can spend billions on road infrastructure we can spend a little on maintaining the rail line.”
Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin said using the Kuranda Scenic Railway for public transport was a matter for the state government.
“This is entirely a matter for the Queensland government and Queensland Rail to consider in association with the costs and logistics for providing such a service to the public,” she said.
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