RESIDENTS of Nimmitabel are feeling abandoned by changes to its bus service, with the opportunity to take day trips to Cooma no longer possible.
The small township, isolated on the edge of the Snowy region, has been impacted by the changes to Trainlink, formerly Countrylink, that came into effect on July 1.
Before the changes, Nimmitabel passengers boarded the Bombala Trainlink bus in the morning, often to head to Cooma shopping or onto Canberra.
The changes are part of a 12-month that has affected the Snowy region dramatically.
Nimmitabel resident Cathy Horsfield said the daytime bus service to Canberra was a vital lifeline for the community.
“The big issue for Nimmitabel is that there is only a convenience store,” Ms Horsfield said.
“It’s not even a general store and there is no pharmacy and we have a doctor visit the community only once a fortnight.”
Mrs Horsfield believes the bus service is unacceptable for the elderly population or for those who do not drive.
“I’m lucky enough to still be able to drive but I live with my partner who
doesn’t, I understand how important it is,’ she said.
“Last year I went away and he was fine, he could catch the bus to Cooma for the day and do his shopping and return home.
“There are several people that depend on that service for their shopping or go to the hospital in Cooma and they won’t be catching the bus at night time.”
Mrs Horsfield attended a community meeting held on the issue last month.
She has also written letters to Member for Monaro, John Barilaro, but was disappointed with his response.
“I was not impressed with the response I received back,” she said.
“In that letter Mr Barilaro said that the fact Nimmitabel had a service at all was a “happy accident” and that the service was heavily subsidised.
“Just because we aren’t a huge population doesn’t mean we don’t need access to these services,” she said.
Mr Barilaro said the Nimmitabel community continued to have a seven day a week NSW train link service.
He said that Nimmitabel was previously serviced by two routes, the coastal route which was a seven day service and the Bombala route which was a three day service.
On the days that both services passed through the town, people could get on at Nimmitabel, do a quick shop in Cooma and catch the opposite bus back.
The fact that people had the convenience of two services was a ‘happy accident’, this good fortune was caused simply by overlapping routes; it was not the intention of the heavily subsidised bus network. While people in Nimmitabel enjoyed this convenience, people elsewhere in my electorate did not have a service at all, he said.
“From the very outset I have taken the community’s concerns over changes to its bus services very seriously,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that the matters raised are given the necessary attention; this includes any concerns raised by Nimmitabel residents.
“I reiterate that I am in constant communication with the Mayor and NSW Trainlink and am in the process of investigating a number of options to help resolve the issue.
“It is not my intention to force elderly people to drive on the roads.
“I will continue to work closely with the community to find an outcome that meets the needs of bus patrons and I encourage any Nimmitabel residents affected by these changes to make contact with my office.
“May I point out that there are many more elderly residents in the region who are now accessing a service previously unavailable to them and it would be unfair and unreasonable to expect that they should forfeit their right to a service simply because people who enjoyed an exclusive service are no longer able to access it at a time that suits them.
“I believe I made my position clear the last time the paper sought clarification over my whereabouts at the public meeting.
“Due to a longstanding private engagement, I was unable to reschedule at short notice.
“Bombala Council did not extend an invitation to the meeting and I was not made aware of the date it was going to be held.
“In my absence a representative from my office attended and I have been briefed on the outcome of the meeting,” he said.