Save Our Rail punches above its weight : stands up for community in unequal stoush – Media release 17/07/2015

Win or lose in the Supreme Court Appeal, Save Our Rail maintains integrity and strength, winning the “Court of Public Opinion” and presenting a credible case against the Baird Government’s underhand campaign to develop the Newcastle rail corridor – to replace trains with massive buildings.

The Baird Government’s weapons have been secrecy, deception and a huge waste of public money on a raft of highly qualified legal representatives.

“Yes Minister” antics, in its last ditch desperation to avoid the law included:

  • 18th Dec Gladys Berejiklian directs Railcorp to “vest” ownership of the land to Hunter Development Corporation
  • Supreme Court rules HDC now a “Rail Operator” bound by Transport Administration Act
  • 25th Dec (Yes Christmas Day!) meets to rescind that ownership agreement
  • HDC then only owns section of overhead wire: Railcorp still retains rail line
  • Therefore HDC not a “rail operator”
  • 26th Dec Stops trains to Newcastle permanently despite Supreme Court ruling it could not close a rail line without an act of Parliament
  • Disabling of rail line begins with removal of overhead wires, boom gates and other infrastructure
  • Creation of “temporary crossings” – line covered with road base and turf

Now in their Appeal against the judgment handed down by Judge Adams they imply it should not stand because the tricky change of ownership (only revealed during the hearing) did not proceed – even though they intend to reinstate it if they win the appeal.

The Appeal relied on interpretations and definitions in the Transport Administration Act, as well as the concept that the Growth Centres Act and the Compulsory Acquisitions Just Terms Act would override it.

Barrister for HDC, Tim Robertson, used every trick in the book to waste time and confuse the three judges appointed to hear the appeal. He was howled down by SOR supporters when he said the Wickham interchange was already built. Why would he say this other than to create a false impression re the Government’s intentions?

He also indicated the line would not be “technically” closed if a section of it was removed! (Depends if you want to get to Newcastle Station by train observed Judge Meagher).

The word “truncation” was used as if it was not actual “closure” – John Cleese’s “dead parrot” comes to mind!

Save Our Rail’s principal barrister Shane Prince succinctly outlined the case that the Government had used artifice to evade a law designed to protect public rail lines from closure in exactly the way this Government intends. He pointed to the purpose of the Transport Administration Act in protecting public rail lines throughout NSW so that they could not be sold off for private use and profit. He said truncation and “compulsory acquisition” as a means of “disposal” would still alienate the line from its original purpose.

The three judges will now consider the matter. If the Baird Government wins the appeal it will result in the following:

  • Newcastle rail corridor will be flogged off to developers
  • State-wide ramifications – all rail lines and other public spaces in NSW jeopardised
  • The death of Newcastle CBD – already a 5% trade drop since trains stopped
  • Newcastle Tourism lost – major backpacker hostel closed since transport interrupted
  • Taller buildings (not possible on undermined land) will sprout along the corridor
  • Public funding will be wasted removing a line, which instead could be providing needed improvements – faster and more frequent services to Sydney and other identified Hunter projects.

Save Our Rail is proud to have been represented by barristers, Shane Prince and Brian Kelly with lawyer Raj Haricharan. They were far outweighed in number and seniority but acquitted themselves well with quiet dedication and purpose.

Save Our Rail will continue to campaign on behalf of the community. We will not give up the fight as the future of Newcastle City and the need of Hunter communities to access the beach and city amenities is too important.


Joan Dawson, President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.