MEDIA RELEASE – Newcastle Rail Line

Monday 17 December 2012

“Newcastle deserves better than this” declare Newcastle Greens councillors.
“The $120 million allocated by the State government to cut our rail line at Wickham is a cruel joke on the people of Newcastle. It is nothing like a serious answer to the city’s real transport needs. Where is the integrated transport plan Newcastle desperately needs, including transport interchanges and light rail?” councillor Therese Doyle wants to know.

“The Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy is a plan with zero funding from the State coffers. The politicians of Macquarie Street are once more treating Newcastle and its people with contempt.” said Councillor Doyle.

“What the pretty pictures of tranquil street scenes with pedestrians, bicyclists and almost no cars don’t tell us, is that there is no funding to support this renewal, apart from Urbangrowth’s (ex Landcom) commercial interests” said councillor Osborne, pointing out that “all funding for the strategy is to come from developer contributions through what are known Section 94 contributions, and even these are recommended for a five year deferral. Presumably, Council will foot the bill until those contributions start to trickle in”.

“ If cutting the rail line is such a fabulous idea for public transport in Newcastle why have both the Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian and the Premier Barry O’Farrell been absent from the city? ” Michael Osborne wanted to know. “Neither has made any serious comment on the proposal”.

Councillor Doyle asked “How is $120 million going to resolve the huge number of technical problems posed by cutting the rail? And how will this paltry sum answer problems such as providing an adequate “stabling” area for trains waiting or coming out of current service?”

The report by AECOM referred to in the State Government’s strategy documents, recommends stabling the trains on RailCorps land west of Hamilton Station as its most favoured option (see AECOM report p2). “This option would almost certainly entail the closure of the level crossing at Beaumont St as well as closing the level crossing at Railway St Wickham” Ms Doyle pointed out, adding “These are unacceptable disruptions to businesses and travellers alike.”
“The same AECOM report estimated the cost of cutting the rail line at Wickham at somewhere between $375 million and $500 million, So, it is hard to see just what the $120 million is to be spent on” added Cr Doyle.
“However, $120 million could be well spent on keeping the railway where it is and upgrading crossings” suggested Councillor Doyle. “Many of the rail crossings presented in the urban growth strategy report illustrations have already been suggested by community activists in Save Our Rail, while retaining the rail itself”, Ms Doyle pointed out “Alternatively, $120 million could provide some beautiful street-scaping work that is sorely needed on Hunter St, King St and other main streets in the city.
Why are we cutting a perfectly serviceable rail line when other comparable cities are reviving theirs or putting them underground?”

“The people of Newcastle would welcome $120 million to roll out our cycling strategy, to upgrade our City Hall and other beautiful heritage buildings, to upgrade our libraries, improve sports facilities, coastal and beach infrastructure like surf lifesaving clubs” Councillor Osborne said. Indeed “This would do nicely for our plans to expand and redevelop our wonderful Art Gallery” Councillor Doyle suggested.

“While Barry O’Farrell spent much of the past week announcing $25 billion to be spent on public transport for Sydney over the next four years, including $1.2 billion for light rail, Newcastle residents are asked to be content with $120 million to cut the rail at Wickham, with no guarantees of improved public transport for the city” said councillor Osborne. “Of course Barry was not seen in Newcastle when the announcement was made. Maybe he knew that he would not be welcomed with open arms by the locals with this news”

“Novocastrians are asked to be satisfied with a few rerouted buses that are supposed to replace a complete train trip into the centre of the city”, said Ms Doyle. “There are no plans for an integrated transport system to replace the rail, and there are no plans for any light rail system that could extend public transport access to Newcastle’s beaches and southern suburbs.

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