REMEMBER when townsfolk would gather at the railway station to greet the Midlander train to see who was coming and going?
Registering less than 10 arrivals or departures at the Longreach railway station recently, you may think train travel is only for a dying-breed.
But former Longreach resident, Bruce Saunders wants to modernise the Spirit of the Outback train travel experience, believing connectivity and contemporary upgrades to carriages will revive their popularity.
Mr Saunders is Member for Maryborough (ALP) and became Assistant Minister?for?Train?Manufacturing and Regional?Roads last November.
With a commitment to bring local?train building?back to Maryborough, Mr Saunders is assisting the $600 million commitment to getting 25 six-car trains up and running by 2025 for Brisbane’s Cross River Rail network, as part of the Rollingstock Expansion Program.
Returning to Longreach for the first time in 29 years, Mr Saunders has fond memories of going to school here and helping out as a kid in Barkers Newsagency which his parents Gordon (Popeye) and Lola?Saunders owned for more than 40 years.
“I’’m a big believer in trains,” Mr Saunders said.
“And (the Spirit of the Outback) is something we’re out here to look at because it is an integral part of tourism out here.
“I talked to people arriving on the train and the feedback is they loved it, but we’’ve got to modernise the travel train experience for people.
“The days of going to Rocky as a young bloke on the train with Mum, well we just sat there.
“But today you’’ve got to entertain the kids so there should be connectivity with iPads and movies.
“And a lot of grandparents are taking the grandchildren on experiences like Kuranda Rail.
“We want to update our trains and make them an experience for people.”
As Assistant Minister for Regional Roads, Mr Saunders said the visit allowed him to see first hand the increased number of travellers on western roads.
“Safety for travellers is one of the main reasons we’re doing the roads up.”
As part of the Regional Economic Enabling Fund delivered by Barcaldine Regional Council Mr Saunders said the Blackall – Jericho roadwork is being “delivered by local council to progressively fully seal this road.”
“This road is an important connection between Blackall, Emerald, and Rockhampton, as well as being a crucial link for primary producers to deliver cattle to the cattle sale yards in Blackall.
Works are also taking place about 70km north of Longreach to seal the Cramsie Muttaburra Road by late 2022 to increase safety for caravanners,” Mr Saunders said.
Mr Saunders also visited regional towns on the Inland freight route.
“The Inland freight route will take trucks off the Bruce Highway, create regional jobs and improve freight productivity for truck drivers, farmers, and mine workers.”