Don’t cut rail and run

Ian Kirkwood writes about the Newcastle rail line and parliamentary inquiry in this piece in the Newcastle Herald.

Now, with Labor back in power in Newcastle, the rail issue is again political dynamite and I will not be surprised if Premier Mike Baird pulls the pin on his government’s decision in the coming days.

Even if he does stick to his guns and terminates the trains at Hamilton to allow construction of the Wickham terminus, the light rail side of the project is so conflicted – and so apparently underplanned – that we could end up with the very worst of outcomes: a truncated rail line with no real public transport replacement…

I was at the Fred Nile inquiry at Newcastle City Hall on Friday for most of the day, and it was not a pretty sight.

As someone who has reported on aspects of the rail debate, it was clear to me the University of Newcastle had always said publicly that its inner city campus was not dependent on the rail line being cut, a position the university’s representatives reinforced on Friday.

Yet here were documents, some uncovered by a Greens-backed ‘‘call for papers’’ in the upper house, in which the development corporation was claiming the campus was contingent on the rail line being cut.

The corporation also had Newcastle City Council supporting a rail ‘‘terminus’’ at Wickham, when the relevant 2008 resolution was for a rail ‘‘interchange’’.

Similarly, the government’s refusal, thus far, to release a whole host of rail reports, including any rigorous cost-benefit analysis of its plans, does make it look as though there is something to hide.

And I would not be surprised if the consultants have had a hard time making the numbers stack up.

Read the full article at the Newcastle Herald.