Regular column from Dungog and District Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Lewis

The Federal election is being held this Saturday, coinciding with our 2019 Chamber Business Awards ceremony. Nevertheless, our Awards Ceremony at Clarence Town School of Arts Hall is booked out.

Some of you might already have voted and, if so, according to figures released by the Australian Electoral Commission as of close of business on Saturday you would have joined more than 2.2 million people who had cast their vote at an early voting centres. This early voting is fascinating, reflecting of course that many voters had made up their minds about their voting preferences even before the official policy launches of the major parties.

Sometimes we take elections for granted or hope that they will be over quickly, however fundamentally elections at Federal, State and local level are our opportunity to have a direct influence on the direction of our nation. For those attending our awards ceremony, I'm sure you will be interested to get regular updates on counting during the evening and we will do our best.

The new Dungog to Newcastle train timetable is now in place. Effectively the timetable has reverted back to the 2014 one and now provides the opportunity for travellers and visitors from Newcastle, Maitland and the Lower Hunter areas to spend half a day in Dungog Shire and return home at a reasonable time. Walking groups, service clubs, sight seers, day trippers and others can now come to town, have lunch do some shopping and enjoy the area and still get home at a decent hour.

The most significant change is that now regular rail services leave the Newcastle Interchange at 8.29am on Monday to Fridays and arrive in Dungog at 9.50am. The return trip leaves Dungog at 3.26pm and will arrive back in Newcastle at 4.52pm. Opal card holder return fares range from $2.50/day concession and upwards.

NSW Trains have some very effective online tools for trip planning. You can go online to www.131500.com and there is a free downloadable app for the phones called "Trip Planner" or similar. Both are extremely effective, and the www.131500.com online one takes into account buses, trains, light-rail and any future combinations.

The chamber would like to wish Cath and Vic Turrin well in their move from the district. They have been long time members of the DDCC, passionate volunteers and fundraisers, owners and supporters of local business.