Meeting with Minister John Watkins – March 9th 2005

Save Our Rail met with State Transport Minister John Watkins, Bryce Gaudry, Member for Newcastle, John Mills, Member for Wallsend, Jeff Hunter, Member for Lake Macquarie, Member for Swansea Milton Orkoupolos, and several Ministry of Transport persons.

Joan Dawson and George Paris represented SOR concerns, and were accompanied by Newcastle University Student Transport Co-ordinator Jack Thieme, and James Bennett a vision impaired business man.

Save Our Rail presented the Minister with a range of reports;

  • The Hunter and Central Coast transport workshops March 2004 by SOR.
  • Rail costing statistics.
  • Flaws in the Lower Hunter Transport Working Group (LHTWG) reports.
  • 1160 petitions signed by commuters on Australia Day 2005.

Following are some of the issues presented to the Minister’s attention:

  • The LHTWG reports are flawed as reported by many academics and expert people.
  • The LHTWG report relates only to 100 meters around the line between Broadmeadow and Newcastle, not the Lower Hunter.
  • The LHTWG representatives are merely representing business interests and have no expertise to report on transport.
  • SOR predicted that when the Minister receives accurate information he will be compelled to reverse the decision to cut the rail.
  • All the State elected representatives of the Lower Hunter, Maitland, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie LG Councils and thousands of petitioners are opposed to the rail closure.
  • The only people people seeking the rail closure are land developers.
  • There needs to be a social impact study.
  • There needs to be an independent economic study of the proposed rail closure.
  • There needs to be a fully integrated study of all transport in the Hunter considering buses, ferries, trains parking and disabled facilities.
  • Buses to the University were unreliable.
  • There is practically no capacity for any further parking at Newcastle University
  • Large numbers of students of the University and TAFE travel by train between Newcastle and the University.
  • The Royal Blind Society (RBS) offices in Hamilton are visited by 1000 vision impaired people each week.
  • If the rail is closed at Broadmeadow the RBS offices will need to be moved.
  • If the rail is closed at Broadmeadow the people currently using the Hamilton offices will all have to be retrained.
  • Vision impaired people find it almost impossible to catch buses.

The Minister responded with:

  • Experts can be found to prove any point of view, he believes his own.
  • He sees no need for a social impact study.
  • He sees no need for a full economic study of the proposed closure.
  • He agrees that there will be a fully integrated study of all transport in the Hunter considering buses, ferries, trains parking and disabled facilities.
  • He agreed that bus services to the University need to improved.
  • He expressed interest in the lack of capacity for any further parking at Newcastle University.
  • He commented that students arriving by rail at the University weren’t all coming from Newcastle.
  • He agreed that the Royal Blind Society (RBS) offices in Hamilton that are visited by 1000 vision impaired people each week and the relocation of RBS premises and the retraining of its clients was an issue to be resolved.

Save Our Rail was pleased that the Minister appears to be listening, and we are confident the report he has commissioned, along with our information on Hunter transport will convince him that the rail between Broadmeadow and Newcastle is an essential component of the Hunter transport system.

Save Our Rail has invited the Minister, the six lower Hunter State Members, and the Mayors of Maitland, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie to join the HUNTER TRANSPORT FORUM to exchange views with Hunter commuters to be held at the Banquet room of Newcastle City hall on Saturday 19th March commencing at midday.

AUTHORISED BY:

Joan Dawson, Save Our Rail President.
George Paris, Save Our Rail Secretary.