Transport privatisation a cost to passengers – Media release 05/11/2015

Save Our Rail is totally opposed to privatisation of rail services or the sale of the corridor land. Private operators have a duty to make a profit for their shareholders therefore the cost to the customer will be higher.

Minister Constance:  “Patronage on public transport in Newcastle has dropped and customers tell us the service levels are not up to scratch. It’s clear the current approach to transport in Newcastle isn’t working so it’s time to think outside the box.”

“Too right it isn’t working, Mr Constance!” says Joan Dawson, President, Save Our Rail. “It’s been disabled! The crippling of the service since Dec 2014 by your government has already proved to have a similar effect to the Newcastle earthquake. It is killing off the CBD.”

Cutting the direct train service off at Hamilton, offloading the passengers to buses has caused a drop in public transport use of approximately 55% according to TfNSW figures.  Workers, students and people with appointments have resorted to car use to ensure punctuality.  People, including tourists are choosing to go elsewhere because of the inconvenience of the transfer.  This has caused a marked retail decline in Newcastle CBD, the backpacker industry guide, The Lonely Planet has dropped Newcastle from its top ten list and proprietors are putting off staff. The Great Northern Hotel is a dead zone, closing its doors some days and the taxi drivers report a drop in custom at the Newcastle Station stand.

Mr Constance also spoke of the mis-matched timetables – would you believe this man’s temerity in mentioning timetables! The changes wrought by Gladys Berejiklian on train services were a disaster and created havoc for the viability of using public transport throughout the Hunter.  From school children to day trippers the new timetables caused already poor services to be further eroded. Even the XPT services were not exempted from the onslaught. Despite protests and advice that the bus system needed total overhaul instead of interfering with the efficiency of the trains, the community was ignored.

It has been obvious that rail into Newcastle has been subject to a deliberate campaign of undermining, even to the non-promotion of Newcastle as a tourist destination. The aim has been to run it into the ground in order to justify its removal.

Save Our Rail has previously described the process of cutting off the rail line as “Privatisation by Stealth.”  Well now it is out in the open – the intention to sell off the land to developers, denied for years, is certainly now being realised as the reason for removing trains from the transport corridor.  Urban Growth is heralding private uses for this valuable asset, this non-undermined piece of land that can support high rise. Like a row of protruding teeth the buildings will sprout along the harbour front. The only people to prosper from this will be developers.

Now we have another privatisation aspect revealed – the entire Newcastle transport system!

One only has to look at the privately run Central to Mascot Airport line to realise that the costs to passengers will increase.  The fares to connect with the public train system are a major impost, with pensioners paying $2.50 to go from Newcastle to Central then having to fork out $13 to travel the final short distance to access the airport. The cost to full fare paying passengers is much higher again.

In Christchurch there is a private light rail service, that circles the city centre going nowhere and to even put a foot onto its carriages costs NZ $20. That is what Newcastle seems to be getting – a light rail running where currently the fare free buses operate – back and forth to nowhere. The free bus is to be discontinued and the privately run trams will be a cost on top of the fare to Wickham.  Who will come? Why would they come?

Poor old Newcastle – its heritage railway destroyed and its heart ripped out at a cost of $½ billion.

Today to top up the bad news the contractors have begun their evil work of “ripping up the rail line” at Wickham.

This is a cause for alarm with no decision yet handed down in the Appeal against the Save Our Rail Supreme Court win on Christmas Eve. Is it legal with the amended Act of Parliament not yet gazetted?  Certainly it demonstrates the high handed actions of an arrogant government, which imposes its will on the people without consultation and ignores the protests of the community.

Joan Dawson,
President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.