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Inland rail a trifecta for Toowoomba region: mayor
Economy seating is set to be axed and the cheapest fares will be hundreds of dollars higher when changes are made to the Indian Pacific train service on Friday.
Operator Great Southern Rail blamed the move on federal cuts to concession subsidies, which also affect The Ghan service that runs between Adelaide and Darwin.
The decision to cut all economy-class seating has particularly prompted concern in Broken Hill, where the Indian Pacific is the its only railway link to the nearest capital city, Adelaide.
"It's a huge disappointment to the people of Broken Hill to lose the service," Broken Hill councillor Peter Black said.
Eliminating the economy carriages will mean the cheapest fare for a pensioner travelling from Broken Hill to Adelaide jumps from $187 to $619, while the cheapest non-concession fare will be $779.
The federal changes follow similar cuts to concession subsidies by the NSW Government, which saw a fare increase in October last year for part of the route.
Impact on tourismA bus service runs from Broken Hill to Adelaide and there are also flights, but Cr Black said the Indian Pacific was the most reliable and economical option for older people who needed to travel for family or medical reasons.
He said it also eliminated an important transport link for tourists.
"Tourism is the only one industry that's going ahead at this time [in Broken Hill]," Cr Black said.
"Tourists don't come to Broken Hill by air, simply because the fares are so expensive."
State and federal politicians lobbied their colleagues and Great Southern Rail when the changes were first announced.
The Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, said he would make a final representation to Transport Minister Darren Chester before Friday.
"I will certainly be doing my best, but I'm not going to make any strong commitments here, only that I will continue to negotiate on behalf of the people of Broken Hill with the Federal Government to get an outcome on this issue," Mr Coulton said.
"It's quite an unusual issue."
Significant drop in local bookingsBroken Hill travel agent Cheryl Cuy said the move has resulted in a 90 per cent decline in locals booking the Indian Pacific to Adelaide.
Ms Cuy said it meant some customers were being left without an easy way to get to their nearest capital city.
"From here to Sydney they've got a bit of an alternative, they've got the CountryLink services," she said.
"But from here to Adelaide, there's a bus that goes occasionally that isn't regular, so people are now driving."
She said catching the Indian Pacific had become more expensive than flying.
The ABC has contacted Great Southern Rail.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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