Greens call on State Government to reveal Newcastle rail future options

Newcastle Greens today called on the NSW Government to immediately disclose all the options it is seriously considering for the future of the Newcastle rail line, in the light of renewed media speculation.

Referring to a story on NBN News last night stating that the NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard was considering a $70million option to cut the Newcastle rail line, Newcastle Greens Lord Mayoral candidate John Sutton said that it was time that the state government came good on its election promise to be more open and honest with the community on such matters.

“Given that previous estimates to cut the Newcastle line have significantly exceeded $70million, the state government must immediately confirm whether the NBN story is correct or not, and – if it is – what this new option involves.

“$70million is a bizarre figure to quote for such a project, and raises serious questions about the quality and nature of what is being considered.

“Under this option, where would the rail line be cut? What alternative transport infrastructure and operations would replace the lost services, and at what cost and on what timeline? What impact would the option have on patronage, especially the state government’s own local targets for increasing public transport use? Would the cited $70million cover the full cost of the project, or would the private sector be involved? If so, what part of the project would produce a profit?

“These and other key questions must be answered by the Minister now, before the state government releases its Newcastle CBD revitalisation policy in June, and the Newcastle community is locked into yet another divisive rail line debate arising from a fait accompli issued from Macquarie St, advocated by the same old vested interests, using the same old shoddy arguments from the same old discredited evidence that we had under the former Labor government.

“Despite promises of increased community participation in such decisions, the state government has not yet even disclosed to the local community the range of options it is considering for the future of the rail line, beyond vague references to a “light rail” option from the local member for Newcastle, Tim Owen.

“One NSW Minister – Mike Gallacher – even told the NSW parliament that the recent Newcastle forum on the NSW Transport Master Plan would be the final opportunity for the local community to have its say on the future of the Newcastle rail line, despite no information being provided to that forum on the matter.

“This government incorporated specific open government and community participation goals in its NSW 2021 Plan, including to “Involve the community in decision making on Government policy, services and projects” (Goal 32). But all we’ve had from them so far on the future of the Newcastle rail line is re-runs of the same back-door, Sydney-based decision-making and drip-feeding of the local rumour mill that we had under the former Labor government.

“This issue needs genuine leadership that brings an end to the anti-rail campaign that has been waged by vested interests for the past two decades, against the vast array of evidence demonstrating that cutting the Newcastle rail line is simply bad public policy,” Mr Sutton said.

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For more information or comment, contact John Sutton (Greens Newcastle Lord Mayoral candidate) on 0411 154 004 or 4969 2668.

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