The Rail Rally was amazing! I boarded the 9.58 am train from Thornton to Newcastle, noticing that about a dozen ‘ralliers’ were doing the same. The train was overcrowded with people dressed in yellow and holding placards in support of rail retention and in opposition to the government’s decision to permanently deprive the people of the Hunter from travelling into the iconic Newcastle Station on a beautiful summer day. It was great to see a lot of young people families, bike riders and the wheelchair bound talking about their passion for the rail line into Newcastle and the surprised looks of rail staff as hundreds of us poured onto the platform to see yellow streamers tied to poles and fences.
We wound our way up to Pacific Park at 10.40 am to see 4,000 -5,000 people sitting all around the park to be addressed by Ms Price, a rail advocate and politician from Melbourne. There were people dressed in wacky costumes, like the walking ATM and carrying signs like ‘Truncate Baird & Gladys’. I was overwhelmed to see so many people that I have never met before cheering to keep the rail line that I have travelled for decades and appreciated every time that I did.
It was so gratifying to see the genuinely surprised faces as the crowd walked down Hunter St. Many people came out and clapped and some held up signs. I even enjoyed seeing one of the Newcastle Alliance members watching with a frown. I had to call out ‘we are the noisy majority!’ I said this because it has been so frustrating to be labelled the ‘noisy minority’, despite the fact that 70% voted for candidates in the Newcastle election who wanted the rail maintained and 66% did so in the Newcastle bi- election.
The rally moved into Civic Park as the back of the group still wound its way down Hunter and up Darby Sts saying ‘What do we want? Save Our Rail. When do we want it? Now!’’ As the sun beat down the crowd was addressed by a number of speakers, including representatives Hunter Concerned Citizens’, the Trades Hall Council and Save Our Rail, as well as the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, its State government representative and the President of the Newcastle University Student’s Union. The rally cheered and clapped as the speakers vowed to fight to keep rail services into Newcastle, even if the government stops them on Christmas Day. What also made an impression was the awareness of the group of the economic and social prosperity that attends direct and efficient transport services and the fact that the Baird government has failed to make planning decisions in a just and transparent manner.
After the rally a group of us had lunch at the Great Northern Hotel, which was constructed by the builders of the Great Northern Railway before returning to Newcastle Station for the journey back to Maitland. As we left Newcastle Station on the journey I admired the glistening harbour and prayed that I would be able to do the same for many years to come.
Kim Cross, SOR vice-president