Save Our Rail NSW Incorporated has always acted for public benefit in campaigning to preserve NSW transport infrastructure, with a particular emphasis on the Newcastle Rail Line which had provided efficient direct services to historic Newcastle Station until the abrupt closure of that rail service in December 2014. This occurred despite a successful SOR Supreme Court ruling on Christmas Eve, 2014. There was an immediate 53% loss of public transport usage (ABS official figure).
The Supreme Court case won by SOR in December, 2014, with the NSW Government being in contravention of the Transport Administration Act, resulted in the line removal being prevented at that time. This decision meant that the change to law the Government needed to remove the infrastructure was only won with the promise extracted by the Shooters & Fishers Party of $50 million additional funding to produce a cost/benefit analysis and to carry out a study for the expansion of the light rail network, including to Callaghan Campus (Newcastle University). That $50 million will be of benefit to the community and now the people should be insisting that the promises are honoured. (To date neither promise has been met.)
Save Our Rail’s win alerted the community to the facts of the intention by HDC and Urban Growth for development on the rail corridor. It should be remembered that misleading statements had been believed e.g. Mr Hazzard Dec 2012 promise that the corridor would “stay in public hands” and the Property Council’s statement the land would not be any use for development. People believed the light rail would be in the transport zoned corridor. The HDC original scheme (1993) was to develop on the line and that is now more obvious in the crazy plan to put the light rail in Hunter Street at $100million extra cost – to keep that non-undermined land for buildings.
It is disappointing that this Government pursued a reversal of the original Supreme Court decision even though it had already gained the right to destroy the rail line through a change of the law. The continuation of the Appeal was therefore a waste of public money and the bullying Government’s continued actions against a small community group do it no credit. It seems to be a way of treating community with contempt and warning other groups against raising their concerns – like David and Goliath, but with Goliath crushing the life out of David.
Save Our Rail has not been opposed to a light rail network within the city area and in its 2010 WesTrans proposal advocated for a system somewhat similar to the current Newcastle City Council plan. The SOR plan would have used existing corridors previously used by the earlier tram network extending to Glendale via Newcastle University.
Closure of the rail line has meant Newcastle has been crippled with the loss of the long haul mode of public transport to it, which brought international tourists from Sydney and provided convenient links to Hunter communities.
SOR has always acted on behalf of the Newcastle and Hunter communities and nothing this group of volunteers has done has been for its financial gain or that of its members. The Incorporated group has been transparent and honest in all its activities. Members of SOR are proud of what we have achieved and will continue to fight for transport services of the highest level in the Hunter and beyond.
Joan Dawson (President) and Kim Cross (Vice President).