Casino Railway Station Staffing
Mr GEORGE (Lismore) [5.39 p.m.]: I wish to highlight concerns about rail services in the electorate of Lismore. The stationmaster and assistant stationmasters employed at Casino have been advised by State Rail management that their services will no longer be required following alterations to the signalling equipment at the Casino railway station. The alterations call for the remote control of signalling equipment to be operated by signalmen at Broadmeadow. Those functions are presently being carried out at Casino by the stationmaster, three assistant stationmasters and a station assistant.
I would like to outline to the House some of the functions that the stationmaster and other officers perform. I went to the railway station the other morning at 3 o'clock and stayed for the full shift, until 11 o'clock, just to see exactly what happens. They perform all the signalling duties for the safe movement of freight trains and passenger services operating through Casino and the Murwillumbah branch line. They are also responsible for the control of the Murwillumbah branch line and for the safety of maintenance gangs working on or near the line. They provide 24-hour security for passengers arriving and departing Casino, and each year arrange and assist with the transfer of approximately 55,000 passengers to and from the Gold Coast, transferring passengers from trains to road coaches.
Casino transfers approximately 150 passengers a day using those services. Casino also has a 24-hour booked luggage and storage service. As a large majority of passengers are elderly and the trains to Brisbane depart early, the staff offer assistance to those with special needs. Due to the decline of rail services in Casino over the years, Casino has lost more jobs than can be tolerated. To my knowledge 150 jobs have been lost from the locomotive depot, 70 jobs from the railway station and 15 jobs from the Casino freight centre. There are now eight staff working at Casino, plus one travel agent. At this time the station is operating economically and efficiently, and all employees are gainfully employed.
Casino is the only station between Newcastle and Brisbane that is working and accessible to the public day and night. The elderly people have to catch trains at 3.15 in the morning to go to Brisbane. The morning I was there, those passengers were struggling with their luggage to get onto the trains. It certainly would be a lot harder for them if they did not have the support of State Rail staff. The new signalling process will mean that permanent station staff at Casino will probably go. That means that there will be no permanent staff north of Broadmeadow. That causes me great concern. I do not know what services will be provided.
Four of the seven staff based at Casino have already been displaced once in their careers. I am also concerned that at 3.10 a.m. at Casino railway station no room is opened so that people can shelter from the cold; they are left out on the open station. The Northern Rivers rail service is now playing a very important role in rail tourism and freight movement, and it is looking to expand its services in the north. I now seek the assurance of the Minister that he will assist with expansion of services in Casino and to the north, and not cut them back. I seek the Minister's support for retention of the signalling operation. First, I ask the Minister to seriously reconsider the option of changing the decision on the signalling operation so it will remain where it is at this stage, until the second stage of Justice McInerney's report is released, with any findings therein being addressed.
Second, for security and comfort reasons, I urge the Minister to ensure that passengers have the use of CountryLink lounges at the Casino railway station, especially as we are now coming up to winter. Third, I ask that the Minister support the Chamber of Commerce and Community application to acquire a 900-class deb set to daily service the Casino to Murwillumbah line. Fourth, I ask the Minister to give a guarantee to retain the staff at Casino to provide the services and support that travellers expect when using rail services in this State. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to my proposals, because the services to Casino and to the north of Casino can be expanded, certainly not cut back, as he is proposing.
Ms NORI (Port Jackson—Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Tourism) [5.44 p.m.]: I commend the honourable member for his contribution. I will convey his concerns to the Minister and seek a direct reply.