Appeal ponders what is an open line

NEWCASTLE’S rail line has not technically been closed just because trains no longer service all its stations, the state government has told the Court of Appeal as part of renewed efforts to remove the city’s rail tracks, as reported in the Newcastle Herald.

A hearing began on Wednesday to consider whether the government has the authority to rip out the heavy rail between Wickham, Civic and Newcastle stations, during which its lawyers insisted the “line remains open” and both sides pondered whether “the line” encompassed the tracks running from as far as Sydney.

The complex case turns on the Transport Administration Act, which says Parliament must pass an act before a “rail infrastructure owner” can close a line. A line is deemed closed if the tracks are removed or the rail corridor land is sold or “disposed of”.

“This is not the closing of a rail line just because you take two stations off the route,” Tim Robertson SC, barrister for state agency the Hunter Development Corporation, told the Court of Appeal.

“It depends if you look at it from the perspective of [someone in] Newcastle,” Justice Anthony Meagher replied.

It emerged during the hearing on Wednesday the sale price was to have been $10. But in the end only about 780 metres of overhead wiring was actually sold to HDC in the wake of last year’s court ruling.

But Save Our Rail barrister Shane Prince told the court the government’s elaborate arrangements involved a “degree of artificiality”.

He argued the act was concerned with preserving the NSW rail network unless Parliament approved other plans for it, and law makers never intended for it to be read in such a “tightly technical” way.

The government’s legal team included about two dozen people, compared to the group’s three lawyers.

The hearing is continuing.

Read the full article at the Newcastle Herald.