Tourism to go the way of the rail line – Media release 08/10/2014

Newcastle wins an award it may deserve for its natural and built historical assets, but which the city’s tourist bureau, if it exists, certainly has not earned. The promotion of this city with its gorgeous beaches, its heritage buildings and efficient intercity rail connection is abysmal.

It is my opinion the accolades should go to the region, including Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens and Cessnock, which have actively promoted the Hunter Region. Newcastle achieves a level of tourism by virtue of the proximity of Newcastle Station to its backpacker hostels and beaches. Overseas travellers look for these connections, especially those whose link is through the Lonely Planet Guide.

I visit Sydney frequently and hover around the Countrylink booking office picking up tourist brochures while waiting for the train. There I find beautiful glossy booklets on all sorts of tiny NSW destinations – Menindee, Lightning Ridge, Kiama and Coonabarabran, as well as for larger centres such as Grafton, Broken Hill and Katoomba. There are no promotions for Newcastle to be seen. It doesn’t seem to exist.

I travelled recently to some towns in the North East of NSW and was very impressed with the tourist Information Centres at Murwillumbah and Grafton. They were prominently located, had attractive buildings with plenty of parking, good facilities and were able to provide an impressive array of information as to local attractions. We were able to find the wonderful Art Gallery to which Margaret Olley’s studio has been relocated, for example, the location of which I was unaware.

Where is the Tourist Information Centre for this great city needing to re-invent itself since the closure of its major industry? I haven’t exactly tripped over it recently. I believe there was a nook within the Maritime Centre, but it is simply not good enough and Newcastle should do better! It needs to have parking and facilities, be visible and easily found with prominent signage.

Now the government intends to take out the very thing that is still bringing the tourists to Newcastle. It is to close Newcastle Rail Line within weeks of two major events which require the sort of mass transit trains provide – the New Year’s Eve celebrations on Newcastle Harbour and the Asian Cup soccer tournament. The latter is the sort of event we need, for which rail provision had been a pre-requisite in the venue determination. If the line is cut it will be unlikely to return to Newcastle.

It is difficult to imagine how these events can be successfully staged without the rail services. Buses just won’t cope. Therefore all who value the future of our beloved city should rise up and demand a reversal of this decision which will ruin businesses and destroy the city’s chances to build tourism.

Newcastle City Council needs to get its priorities right and get cracking on some projects to advance the tourist trade, including more caravan parks, information centres and promotional material as well as taking a proactive role in saving the best means of tourist transport, the intercity rail service. It’s our best chance for “revitalisation.”

Joan Dawson, President , Save Our Rail NSW Inc.