PASSENGERS on the Inlander Rail will be treated like “second-class citizens” with changes that are likely to act as a prelude to the end of the service.
In a move by Queensland Rail and the state government, passengers on the historic Mount Isa to Townsville rail service will be forced to sit up for the 20-hour trip, with sleeping and dining cars scrapped.
Queensland Rail has blamed the retirement of 60-year-old carriages for the change.
“The removal of older carriages from the fleet means the Inlander and Westlander will now offer seated-only services from 1 January 2015,” Queensland Rail executive general manager customer service Martin Ryan said.
Despite the loss of the sleeping and dining cars, Mr Ryan was adamant that “customers can continue to expect the same great service”.
“But carriages may look a little different as the on-board offering has changed,” he said.
Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady slammed the move as a masked way to force the closure of the service, with the Inlander becoming less attractive for passengers, forcing a likely drop in patronage.
“This is an insult to the west and it is essentially closure by stealth,” he said.
“The passengers, many of them elderly, will be treated like second-class citizens.
“To expect seniors to sit up for that duration is impossible and an absolute insult.
‘‘It is setting transport back 100 years.”
Cr McGrady said the move was likely to be part of the state government’s plan to privatise state-owned assets, including the Mount Isa to Townsville rail line.
The Inlander service runs at a loss and would be a sticking point for likely suitors to take up the long-term lease of the rail line.
“I agree some state-owned assets should be privatised but not transport, which is a community service obligation,” Cr McGrady said.