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O’Farrell to cut uni rail and bus services

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Report card on O’Farrell Plan to cut Newcastle’s rail services

In September 2010, Newcastle Greens adopted ten “Criteria for Assessing Proposed Changes to Newcastle Public Passenger Transport Infrastructure or Services”, as a framework for assessing any proposed changes to the city’s public passenger transport infrastructure or services.

The Report Card assesses the O’Farrell government’s current proposal to cut the city’s rail services against these criteria.

The O’Farrell Plan is FAIL on all ten counts.

Where any significant changes are proposed for Newcastle’s public passenger transport infrastructure or services, Newcastle Greens supports changes that:

1.       Are based on an approach that prioritises ecological sustainability and social equity over other criteria.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan prioritises developer interests over the public interest. It will damage the environment by encouraging more people to use private motor vehicles, and will decrease social equity, by making public transport harder to use for people who can’t afford other forms of transport.

2.       Decrease Newcastle’s per capita ecological footprint (e.g., result in a net reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions), and improve (or at least do not exacerbate) air pollution or any other adverse environmental impacts.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan will increase Newcastles per capita ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions by increasing private motor vehicle use.

3.       Improve the city’s public transport infrastructure and/or services based on achieving robust and credible targets for shifting from private car use to more sustainable personal transport modes.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan will waste hundreds of millions of dollars replacing an existing rail line with another, and will damage the city‘spublic transport services by forcing public transport passengers who now enjoy seamless, single-seat rides into and out of the city to take unnecessary interchanges – or use their cars instead. The plan will make achieving the O’Farrell government’s own stated (and already very minimal) targets for public transport into and out of the CBD even harder to achieve.

4.       Increase access to public transport for economically, socially and mobility disadvantaged groups.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan will make public transport to and from the Newcastle CBD even harder to use for economically, socially and mobility disadvantaged groups by introducing more forced interchanges and increasing journey times.

5.       Maintain an acceptable benefit / risk ratio in terms of public safety (e.g., shifting toward safer modes of transport, and/or installing safety features, such as safe pedestrian crossings across roads and rail lines, and segregated cycleways).

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan will spend hundreds of millions of public transport dollars to force passengers to interchange to and from different transport modes, increasing their travel risk.

6.       Are subjected to rigorous benefit / cost analysis that demonstrates best value for the expenditure of public money.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan has not been subjected to any benefit/cost analysis. The only previous benefit/cost analysis for cutting the Newcastle rail line was exposed (by The Greens) as fatally flawed.

7.       Respect – and where possible incorporate – any heritage values associated with the current system.

FAIL: The O’Farrell government has not told the public about its plans for Newcastle‘s heritage railway station, but developers have been eyeing the site for many years, and the current plan will make it available.

8.       Are independently and expertly tested and substantiated via credible methodologies and robust data against these criteria, and are subjected to general public scrutiny and comment before any final decision is made.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan has not been independently and expertly tested and substantiated by any methodology or data against any publicly released criteria. Decision-making has been secretive, and community input and scrutiny minimal.

9.       Are demonstrably superior to both the current system and to any other proposed alternative when evaluated according to these criteria.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan is demonstrably inferior to both the current system, and to other proposed alterntives when evaluated according to any reasonable criteria.

10.   Are accompanied by a delivery plan that:

10.1. guarantees fully allocated and legally secure funding for the full implementation of any proposed change to the current public transport system, especially in circumstances where any earlier phase of a proposed change would result in a temporary disruption or reduction in transport services or infrastructure .

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan depends on using some of the funds raised by privatising the Port of Newcastle, and funds from the Hunter Infrastructure Fund. The plan has not been fully costed, and the implementation plan (including phasing) has not been released. However, the available evidence is enough to demonstrate that the plan will be an expensive waste of valuable public transport and infrastructure money, and is likely to cause extensive and unnecessary disruption to public transport users and to CBD businesses.

10.2. ensures the minimum necessary disruption to existing public transport services during any transition to improved services.

FAIL: The O’Farrell plan does not involve any transition to improved services, and the available evidence is that it will significantly disrupt such services.

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