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Re-open the railways

THE vast majority of Australians support increased investment in rail services, including re-opening country and regional lines and a possible high-speed network, to try to reduce the road toll.
Nanjing Night Net

With a five-day police road blitz to mark Australia Day finishing yesterday with seven dead, research commissioned by the national rail union shows one in five people claim a family member or friend who was in a holiday road accident.

The research, conducted by the polling and interview firm UMR, found that almost 80 per cent of respondents would consider using a high-speed rail network during the holidays.

And more than 95 per cent of the 1000 surveyed backed the re-opening of country railways as another measure to help individuals and families travel safely.

”Families are saying that the same old responses to the road toll are not working and that we’re losing the battle against alcohol-, speed- and fatigue-related accidents,” the Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s national organiser, Bob Nanva, said.

“The road toll is our national shame. Our ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to road safety simply has to end.”

One option canvassed in the UMR research was $1 public transport fares for individuals and families during the holidays. Almost 60 per cent of respondents strongly supported cheap tickets, while another 30 per cent supported them.

The president of the Police Association of NSW, Scott Weber, said police would support any strategies that could help cut the number of road deaths.

”Cheap transport is a great idea,” he said.

”It just reduces the incentive for people to utilise their vehicles around major public events, when they might not realise the next day that they are intoxicated from the night before or the day before.”

NSW residents were the most concerned about the holiday road toll: 79 per cent said they worried about their family travelling by road during the holidays, compared with 72 per cent of Queensland residents and 71 per cent of Victorians.

The most recent national road toll figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics show the number of deaths on the roads has been inching down in the past decade.

There were 1368 road deaths last year, an 8 per cent fall on the 2009 toll. In NSW, there were 421 road deaths last year, a better result than 2009 but 11 per cent worse than the 374 deaths in 2008.

“We need to provide safe travel options so that more people can make the choice to leave their car at home,” Mr Nanva said.

“And we have to be proactive about getting people to take those safe options.”

Mr Weber said governments had not focused enough on practical measures to improve road safety, with too much attention on traffic cameras that helped government revenue.

”Speed cameras lead to a slap on the wrist a couple of weeks down the track,” he said.

More than 716 speeding infringements were issued yesterday by the NSW Police Force as part of its five-day Operation Safe Return.

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