Railway stations at Lismore, Byron Bay and Murwillumbah are among eleven stations earmarked for closure by the NSW Government.
In addition to the closures remaining stations like Casino will have their staffing slashed under a radical shake-up of the NSW rail network.
A review by NSW TrainLink, which runs regional and rural rail services, has raised concerns about the lack of security and shrinking customer service on trains to and from some of the state’s biggest regional towns.
Although the stations in the Northern Rivers area no longer service trains, they do provide face-to-face ticket sales, and service coaches that link with trains at other locations.
NSW Shadow Minister for Transport Jodi McKay said the government was yet to consult with communities being targeted by the closures while Greens Transport spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi said ‘billions of dollars is being wasted in Sydney while the Government cries poor about providing even basic services to the rest of the state.’
The union representing rail workers described the announcement as ‘out-of-the-blue’.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union Secretary Alex Claassens said that these cuts will hurt rural communities and will leave workers with few other employment options in regions already struggling with unemployment.
“Some of these stations have been operating for more than 100 years, and now the Baird Government will be ripping away jobs and services from our regional communities,” Mr Claassens said.
“Despite the union writing to the Nationals MPs some months ago asking them to protect locals jobs and services, we haven’t heard anything back.
“The Nationals are nowhere to be seen to stand up for these jobs. They have gone quiet and let this government completely forget about country areas. Now is the time for them to stand up for their constituents.
“These workers are at the heart of their towns and serve a central role not just at the stations themselves, but tourism advice, as well as support and assistance for visitors and locals using the XPT and Xplorer services.”
Mr Claassens said that a staffing review of an additional 19 regional stations, plus the Sydney Booking Office, would see full time positions slashed and replaced with part time jobs.
“Ripping fulltime jobs out of rural and regional communities and replacing them with fewer part-time positions will have flow on effects throughout the whole community,” Mr Claassens said.
“Moving staff from an eight hour job, down to just three hours part-time will create a new working poor who won’t be able to afford to only have one job and will be forced to try and get other work, or just go without.”
The union will be visiting each and every station earmarked for closure over the next two weeks to discuss the changes with affected staff and ensure that all workers are given the support they need.