THE state government is pushing ahead with the truncation of Newcastle’s heavy rail line on Boxing Day, despite the findings of a parliamentary inquiry that the project should not proceed as it lacks a proper business case and adequate public consultation, reports the Newcastle Herald.
In an interim report issued on Thursday, the committee inquiring into planning decisions in Newcastle said the works should be delayed until the government had produced a ‘‘peer-reviewed’’ cost-benefit analysis and shown it had explored alternatives, such as sinking the rail line, constructing overbridges and slowing trains down to install more level crossings.
Only a flawed 2009 strategy from the Hunter Development Corporation, which incorrectly stated a university campus would not be built in the city centre unless the rail line were removed, could be found to underpin the government’s decisions, the inquiry found.
The government had failed to ‘‘engage the community in an open and transparent manner’’ about its views.
Chairman and Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile said the committee was perplexed by the decision to start removing the rail ‘‘given that the construction of light rail is not expected to commence until late 2015 and there is no defined completion date’’ and ‘‘I won’t hold my breath for light rail to be installed’’.
The government should consider the retention of the rail or at least delay its removal until the light rail could be put in place, potentially running down the entire heavy rail corridor, so that commuters weren’t left with inferior bus services.
Committee member and Greens MP David Shoebridge said the report ‘‘demolishes the flimsy case’’ for the project.
No cost-benefit analysis has been released by the government. Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian and Roads Minister Duncan Gay refused to appear at the inquiry.