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THE heritage train trips planned for this weekend at Bathurst will continue the city's great rail revival.
When then-Sydney Trains boss Howard Collins (who has since been promoted within Transport for NSW) was in Bathurst on a freezing winter's day in 2019, he provided a refreshingly honest summary of rail's failures in the bush.
"Part of our plan is to try to re-engage with the community that we left behind all those years ago when they shut down stations," he said
"We're not only seeing a phenomenal growth in Sydney, which has been 37 per cent growth [in journeys] in the last five years, but also growth in the regions," Mr Collins said at the time.
The turning of the tide hasn't just been obvious in the creation of the Bathurst Rail Museum (which Mr Collins was in town to see), but in the popularity of the two Bathurst Bullet daily return services to Sydney and the new life that has been brought to the Havannah-Keppel Street corner as a result.
In Sydney, the NSW Government is boring tunnels all over the city for its new driverless metro lines - the first of them, the north-west line, opened in 2019 - and had talked quite confidently about "faster" regional rail lines before COVID hit the economy.
Around Bathurst, Millthorpe has had its station refurbished and reopened to passengers and Tarana and Rydal have been added to the Bathurst Bullet itinerary.
The Bathurst Rail Museum, meanwhile, had just over 32,000 visitors in the first 12 months of its operation - and that included a period of COVID restrictions.
The highest single-day entry was on December 29, when 479 visitors came through the door, and the museum's average was 125 people per day, according to council.
It's a chicken-and-egg question as to whether the revived interest in rail came before or after the revived investment in rail; what can't be disputed, though, is that the interest is there.
Amid all this, the 145th anniversary of the opening of the Main Western Line will be celebrated this weekend when vintage journeys run to and from Bathurst station.
Those who get aboard and clack through the countryside will be getting a glimpse of the past.
Given events of the past few years, you'd have to say the future for rail doesn't look too bad either.
This article first appeared on www.westernadvocate.com.au
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