COMMUNITIES in the Central West rely on highways and public transport to link them other regional areas and Sydney.
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ACM journalists spoke to candidates across the electorates of Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange to find out what they would do to improve transport for their constituents.
Here's what they had to say.
Residents in the Bathurst electorate rely on the Great Western Highway and the Bells Line of Road to get to and from Sydney.
Incumbent Paul Toole, the candidate for the Nationals, identified the Great Western Highway as an important area for investment.
He said a NSW Liberal and Nationals government would be committed to the $4.5 billion upgrade to the Great Western Highway.
"Contracts for major works to begin in Medlow Bath and Little Hartley have been signed, which will transform and improve local, tourist and freight travel between Sydney and the Central West," Mr Toole said.
"A $73 million investment is continuing the delivery of widening of the road from Kelso to Raglan.
"We will invest a further $18.5 million for safety upgrades at Kirkconnell. We are committed to doing further safety upgrades, overtaking lanes between Bathurst and Lithgow."
While Greens candidate Kay Nankervis is less inclined spend money on roads over other issues, she said that if there is expenditure, there needs to be an integrated plan.
"Any major road networks and construction going forward must be part of an integrated plan to connect all centres in the seat of Bathurst with each other, with Sydney and, most strategically, with the airport under construction at Badgerys Creek," she said.
Improving public transport and encouraging greater use of it are both important for Ms Nankervis.
She said that the Greens want to make most public transport options, not just more affordable, but free.
"We, the Greens, say all ground-based public transport should be free - to encourage people to leave their cars at home," she said.
"This policy also would make public transport more affordable for those people in Bathurst who already use it the most: pensioners, students, people on low incomes and people with disabilities which prevent them from driving."
Ms Nankervis did not say how free public transport could be funded by the government.
The Greens also want a moratorium on private toll roads linking the bush to Sydney, which would cut costs on people in the regions needing to go to capital cities by car, and Ms Nankervis said the party also wants to remove barriers that stop people "walking, wheeling or cycling" to their destinations.
Mr Toole believes the current government has already implemented policies that are improving public transport and making it more accessible.
"The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government have added more than 622 bus services in Bathurst," he said.
"We are also investing in real-time tracking on bus services so passengers spend less time waiting at the bus stop and more time at their destination. We are committed to trialling contactless payments starting in Bathurst."
He also mentioned the NSW Regional Seniors and Regional Apprentice and Trainee Transport cards, which he said are making travel more accessible and affordable for eligible people.
If you ask Dugald Saunders, the incumbent and Nationals candidate for the Dubbo electorate, the current government "has a proven track record in building a strong economy and investing in the infrastructure".
That is something he is promising to continue if re-elected, including with the delivery of the new Dubbo Bridge.
"Major work is now underway to lay the foundations for the new Dubbo Bridge across the Macquarie River," he said.
"The Australian and NSW governments have jointly funded the new Dubbo Bridge project, which forms part of more than $1 billion in upgrades along the Newell Highway.
"It will improve traffic efficiency, reduce congestion for locals, visitors and the freight industry, and improve access across the Macquarie River floodplain during extreme weather events."
The bridge is expected to be open to traffic by late 2026.
Mr Saunders also pointed to work on the Great Western Highway, which will benefit many communities in the Central West.
The Labor candidate, Josh Black, said his party will be spending money on major regional roads, but has not identified any Dubbo projects as yet.
"NSW Labor has just announced a major new $1.1 billion statewide package of road capital upgrades over the next 3 years, bringing our share of new and improved roads across regional NSW," he said.
"This is in contrast to the obsession of the current government with spending billions on tunnels in Sydney.
"Labor's announcements for specific roads in our region will be rolled out leading up to the election."
According to Mr Black, the public transport options in Dubbo are "fairly limited".
The Labor party, if elected, would be committed to "assessing" the community's transport needs to see what can be done to improve public transport options both within towns and between towns.
"If elected I'll be looking at how an airport bus service could be made to work with flight times and existing operators. There may be an opportunity for a government-subsidised new operator to offer this service," Mr Black said.
He also pointed to the Town-Link service which links Dubbo to Narromine and Wellington as a "good starting point" which could be made even better. He would also like to see more connections between Dubbo and Mudgee and beyond to Bathurst.
Mr Saunders said the current government has already added another 58 bus services in Dubbo, and the Dubbo Ute Trial has been launched.
He also pointed to other ongoing programs that make it more affordable for people to travel.
"The NSW Liberal and Nationals Government understands the tyranny of distance faced by regional communities and that cost should not be a barrier for people to travel to work, educational classes, practical training as well as essential services, medical appointments, catch-ups with friends and family visits," Mr Saunders said.
"As such, we continue to roll out our $250 Regional Seniors Transport Card and we are progressively rolling out our new $250 Regional Apprentice and University Student Travel Card."
Candidates in Orange say they'll be fighting for funding, but most have not isolated specific projects for the major roads that link the electorate to Sydney and other regional centres.
Aaron Kelly, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate, said he and his party would back plans to improve roads if elected.
"The SFF support any plans to make our roads better and ease congestion. The announcements need to be followed through on and there needs to be accountability from government for those decisions," he said.
He also said there needs to be another route connecting the Central West to Sydney, but did not go into specifics on this.
Incumbent Phil Donato, who is approaching the upcoming election as an independent candidate, identified the Newell Highway as a focal point for him when it comes to transport.
"The state government failed to adequately flood-proof the Newell Highway at Forbes and to the south, and again in recent floods the township was isolated and suffered additional economic hardship as a result," he said.
"I will continue to seek the Newell Highway be flood-proofed to ensure this vital supply route remains open to service our communities and to minimise economic impact to local business."
The Nationals candidate, Tony Mileto, said he will fight for funding, while Labor's Heather Dunn said her plans include helping to clear the roadwork backlog and improving safety.
Road repairs were also on the mind of Greens candidate David Mallard.
"We need to repair our roads and ensure they're safe for our communities and visitors, but we also need to be smarter about managing our transport network," he said.
"We should be investing in getting more freight onto efficient rail infrastructure, taking heavy vehicles, congestion and wear and tear away from our highways."
The Orange Rail Action Group has consistently lobbied for measures that would improve train times between Sydney and Orange.
Some candidates have put their support behind this.
"After meeting with the Orange Rail Action Group, I am a strong advocate for the changes they are lobbying for," Ms Dunn said.
"I would advocate for the straightening of the tracks, increased rail services, and a bullet train which disembarks from Orange."
She also said she would lobby to expand the opal system to Orange, making it more affordable to utilise public transport.
Mr Mallard, who is supportive of public transport, also wants to see rail upgrades.
"We need a thorough and serious look at what can be achieved through track realignment to reduce travel times between Orange and Lithgow," he said.
"We also need more services from and to Orange and the rest of the Central West beyond Bathurst.
"And we need to look at facilitating more freight rail as well as passenger services, including reopening key lines that were closed and looking at the impact that removing duplicated track in previous decades has had in limiting rail movements."
Other candidates, including Mr Donato and Mr Kelly, are promising to communicate the community's concerns on public transport to government and advocate for their needs.
Mr Mileto also expressed a commitment to high-speed rail.
"Recently, the Australian Government announced the passing of legislation to establish a High Speed Rail Authority which will progress the planning and delivery of a national high speed network," he said.
"If elected, I will work closely with the transport ministers and the Australian Government to ensure NSW fast rail outcomes are considered in any national high speed rail initiatives, especially from Sydney to Orange."
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