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Public opinion sought on route deregulation

Monday, 13th February, 2017

Rex Airlines said it would be very happy to have the State Government deregulate the Broken Hill to Sydney route. Rex Airlines said it would be very happy to have the State Government deregulate the Broken Hill to Sydney route.

Deregulation of the Broken Hill to Sydney air route could soon become a reality, paving the way for another airline to offer to provide the service.

Rex Airlines said it had sought to have the route degregulated itself and was “glad” that the NSW Government had heeded its call.  

The government has deregulated a number of Sydney-linked routes in NSW country towns in recent years with most seeing new airlines commence operations as a result. 

Now the government has its eye on other licensed routes, including Broken Hill-Sydney, according to City Council which has been in talks with Transport for NSW. 

Council said it had been asked to “engage with the community” on deregulating the route and to pass its findings to the government by the end of the month. 

“Flights between the city and Sydney have been a bit of a hot topic recently in the city, so if people want to make their voices heard at a State level, I think this is an ideal opportunity to do so,” said Council’s General Manager, James Roncon said.

Regional Express, which operates the Broken Hill-Sydney service exclusively under licence, drew the ire of travellers when it suspended direct flights to Sydney for a month in December and this month increased the ticket price substantially.

Warrick Lodge, Rex’s general manager of sales, said the fare increase was necessary as the service was suffering financial losses. 

The direct flight was introduced in 2014 under a five-year agreement that also saw Rex pay a reduced head tax to council, which owns and operates the airport.

Relations between Rex and council reached a low point before the agreement was struck, with the airline at one point threatening to pull out of the city after accusing the council of making a “greedy grab for money” over its proposed head tax increases.

Deregulation of the route would allow other airlines to offer flights between Broken Hill and the State’s capital city. 

Council said in a statement that it would collect community feedback around the possible deregulation and forward it onto the government before the deadline of February 28.

“We feel the best way for the community to get their message across is with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as to whether the route should be deregulated,” Mr Roncon said.

“We have a survey up right now on our website, or people can get back to us by phone, email, Facebook, or in writing.

“While we obviously can’t control what the outcome of this process will be, we can certainly act as a conduit and pass on residents’ wishes on the matter for the NSW Government to consider when determining how to move forward.”

Rex said it welcomed any move to deregulate the Broken Hill-Sydney air route. 

“Rex is glad that the current government has heeded Rex’s call to deregulate the NSW intrastate routes,” a spokeswoman said.

“The deregulation of the Broken Hill to Sydney route would bring it line with the Broken Hill to Adelaide, Melbourne and Mildura routes, also serviced by Rex, due to these routes having always been deregulated.”

She said the airline had also made a number of public submissions in the past 10 years which called for licenced services to be deregulated. 

The airline has also previously said that passenger numbers in Broken Hill were not large enough to support two airlines.

Council’s survey can be found online at https://www.brokenhill.nsw.gov.au/flight-route-deregulation. Those wishing to give more detailed feedback can call 8080 3300, send an email to council@brokenhill.nsw.gov.au, write to couil at PO Box 448, or send a message via Council’s Facebook page.

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