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While only a handful of jobs will go when a rail maintenance depot at Nyngan in western New South Wales closes, experts say any job losses in regional communities have big impacts.
Nyngan's rail maintenance depot — almost seven hours' drive west of Sydney in the Bogan Shire — is slated to close when company UGL takes over the NSW government's regional rail maintenance contract in early 2022.
Seven jobs will be lost in the town and there are reports up to a further 50 will go at Dubbo.
When approached about the redundancies, the company declined to comment and said it "doesn't talk about its people".
The director of the University of Western Australia's centre for regional development, Fiona Haslam McKenzie, said small regional communities such as Nyngan were sensitive to any job losses.
"It's seven jobs, but it's much more than that. It's also the families that go with those jobs," she said.
She said job losses could have a "ripple effect" across other parts of the community, including the viability of local businesses and sporting clubs.
While the mining boom has been keeping UGL busy, it will also take on NSW's rail maintenance in 2022.(ABC: Lateline Business
)Professor Haslam McKenzie said that, while it was sad to see communities like Nyngan lose industries, it was inevitable.
"Infrastructure has been at the expense of bigger regional centres and communities have lost services and that often will determine where people live," Professor Haslam McKenzie said.
"We've also seen, in agriculture, corporate businesses running farms.
"When it's a corporate enterprise, that sense of place, that sense of commitment to community is often diminished."
As for small regional towns looking to return to their "glory days" in the 20th century, Professor Haslam McKenzie said it was unlikely.
"Too much has changed and also aspirations have changed," she said.
"How many of those people who have those dreams, how many of their children live locally?"
She said some communities were doing a lot of work to diversify their economies, but it would take "a lot of time and a lot of creativity".
Regional centralisationBarwon MP Roy Butler — whose electorate covers much of western NSW — said large regional centres often took jobs from smaller communities.
Nyngan is part of the Bogan Shire Council.(Back Roads: Ron Ekkel
)"It's common for places like Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Orange [and] Dubbo that they suck up and bring in those jobs," he said.
"The cost is that you take those jobs and you take that money out of those communities.
"It's very hard to see how you can get it back there."
Bogan Shire Mayor Ray Donald said the depot's employees would be given jobs elsewhere and the Dubbo depot would cover work already carried out by Nyngan.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union declined to comment, but said it was aware of the issue.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said it was up to UGL to determine how staff and resources were allocated.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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