Submission to NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan – Save Our Rail NSW Inc.

SUBMISSION TO LONG TERM TRANSPORT MASTER PLAN
SAVE OUR RAIL NSW INCORPORATED

Save Our Rail NSW Inc
P.O. Box 212
ISLINGTON NSW 2296
Phone: 0408 618 198
email: joandawson@iprimus.com.au

INTRODUCTION

Public transport is an important aspect of planning and should be incorporated into any plans for development, whether for industry, office space, retail or housing.

Planning frequently ignores this aspect resulting in congested roads and highways as people are forced to use private cars to get to work, to go shopping, to educational institutions  or for transport to leisure and cultural pursuits.

Mass transit is vital for the development and continued sustainability of cities. This has been demonstrated frequently throughout the world. Where cities have removed a transport system, such as rail, this has caused failure and in many cases the authorities have later replaced it at great expense.

It is important therefore, in planning for transport for the long term, that consideration is given to where future housing will be needed, where industries are being planned, where towns and cities are likely to grow.

In the Hunter Valley, for example, the coal industry has been growing for many years into a massive undertaking, overtaking small communities and causing massive relocations of other enterprises.  This has meant that there is a huge demand for transport, not only for taking the coal to the port of Newcastle, but for workers to get to their workplaces, for the people living in the towns and cities developing round the industry to have adequate means of movement from their homes.

This has not proceeded in an orderly and planned fashion, the result being fierce competition for space on the existing inadequate rail system, between passenger and freight need. The highway connecting Hunter towns and cities is constantly clogged with cars carrying the workers and huge coal trucks. This situation causes frustration through delay as well as many accidents often involving the trucks, which are unable to stop quickly.

In any long term transport plan there must be co-ordination with town planning and examination of demographic trends so that future needs will be met adequately.

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSPORT OCCUR SIMULTANEOUSLY. INFRASTRUCTURE MUST BE PROVIDED AT THE OUTSET, NOT ADDED LATER.

The Lower Hunter Regional Strategy 2007 ignored transport needs and included unsuitable developments, some of which have caused community unrest.

TRANSPORT IN THE HUNTER REGION AND NEWCASTLE

RAIL TRANSPORT

  1. Newcastle needs to retain and expand its intercity passenger rail connection direct to Newcastle StationThe existing rail transport is a long distance system, with electric trains connecting Newcastle with Sydney and the Central Coast. Diesel trains link to Maitland and the Hunter Valley.  There is no urban rail system, though some passengers use the intercity trains to access Newcastle from outer suburbs and Lake Macquarie areas through which the main rail runs.
  1. Proposals to truncate the rail line at Wickham or elsewhere would be rejected by the community, would lose public transport patronage and cause decline to Newcastle as the region’s major city.NB. The community view was expressed emphatically at the Master Plan meeting held in Newcastle City Hall in April 2012, with retention of the rail line virtually unanimous. It is ridiculous to suggest that transport improvement would result from cutting off the line from its destination. It needs to be noted that objections to the official record of this meeting, which is incorrect, have been raised, by this group and others. I wrote a series of emails to Georgina Wheadon from May into June 2012 on this matter.  The report was amended but is still inaccurate and has material in it that was contrary to the opinion of the meeting.The draft Long Term Master Plan is not reflecting the consultation undertaken.

    p. 205 Paragragh 3 is a statement about terminating the Newcastle Rail Line at Wickham, which was not raised for discussion at the public meeting in Newcastle. The 6th dot point about connectivity across the city was not raised at the meeting.

    • The results of each table’s comments from regional meetings should be provided as an appendix to the final document. This would provide accuracy and give credibility to the Long Term Master Plan’s stated aim of ‘Putting the customer first.’ It would dispel any suggestions that ‘consultation’ was not genuine.
  1. The rail line to Newcastle is an intercity service and in this role it has the capacity to bring the critical mass of people needed, into the centre of Newcastle.This has great importance in regard to tourism ( especially in relation to the 2011 placement of Newcastle in the top 10 cities in the backpacker manual, The Lonely Planet Guide. These are tourists who rely on trains.) and Sydney, the “Gateway to Australia” is less than 3 hours away. This time could be reduced without great expense and should be included in future planning for transport.  Rail, according to world experts has relevance to the value of land and the prospects for city development.
    • The Long Term Transport Master Plan should not allow the subverting of its programs by a minority of business people in Newcastle with a vested interest in cutting the rail line. Their aim is for quick profit and against the majority community view which looks at the bigger picture. Some of the people driving the anti-rail campaign, through the Hunter Business Chamber, are owners of land adjacent to the rail line and it would be in their interest to be able to acquire the only land in Newcastle not undermined – i.e. the rail line.
  1. Improvements to the service, which would assist in meeting the state target (No.8) of increased use of public transport,  could be made through a different approach to timetabling, which would fully use existing rolling stock to provide an important link between Newcastle Station and the cities of Tamworth, Dubbo and Taree as well as improving the frequency of existing services.  (refer Rick Banyard, cdcopy@hunterlink.net.aufor his detailed timetable revision.)The Banyard timetable would create frequency of service to Hunter towns and cities, en route to Tamworth or Taree which would cause the achievement of patronage targets in the state plan. Many people from Hunter towns are unable to use the train service as there is no return train at night – last train to Dungog is 5.30 p.m. and to Singleton (Scone)  5.55 p.m. If a student had an evening lecture they could not use the train as they could not get home. As there is no other public transport they are forced to use private cars.Many workers drive cars if their work times do not match the train timetable – Maitland Road is constantly congested and fails to cope with the traffic, which indicates the need for a re-think of timetabling of the available public transport.
  1. COMFORT AND PROVISION OF AMENITIES ON LONG DISTANCE TRAINSThis has not been addressed in the Long Term draft, but is important to the Hunter Region and Newcastle.The intercity services existing between Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Sydney need to have as a minimum standard.
    1. Comfortable seats, with provision for adjustable footrests. ( deep vein thrombosis can result)
    2. Availability of drinking water for trips of more than 2 hours. This is a health issue.
    3. Availability of refreshments. Passengers connecting from the Upper Hunter towns to go to Sydney leave home as early as 6.02 a.m. and arrive at Central at 10.30 a.m. Even trains in Russia and Mongolia have provision for refreshments, and the availability of boiling water for tea/coffee making.
    4. Cleanliness. This is often haphazard  with trains leaving Newcastle uncleaned, or half -cleaned (inadequately cleaned). This does not encourage the use of rail. I have stepped on sticky messes of food when the train has supposedly been cleaned. In Russia a person is assigned to each carriage to be responsible for the welfare of passengers, including the cleaning of the entire carriage. They can be seen washing down even the walls within the carriage and the toilets are scrubbed frequently.  Often Newcastle to Sydney trains have disgusting toilets.
    5. Provision of amenities – I.T. connections, power points etc . We are looking to the future surely.
  1. FREIGHT AND PASSENGER RAIL NEEDSBelow are matters that are important to the future of Newcastle and the Hunter region and which have not been addressed in the draft Long Term Transport Master Plan.
    • There is a need for separate lines to adequately meet the needs of passengers and coal transport on increasingly crowded rail lines in the Hunter Region. A separate coal line needs to access the port direct to minimise impacts on the residential areas.   Passengers need the heavy rail direct to Newcastle Station retained as an intercity link.
    • The increased number of very long coal trains running into the urban areas of Newcastle indicates the need for a further separate freight line to the west of Newcastle, so that north/south freight traffic could bypass the Newcastle urban districts.
    • The situation recently explored in the media, in which coal trains from the Lake Macquarie mines are being taken north through suburban Newcastle in order to be turned around at Carrington before going south to their destination of Vales Point, needs attention. This seems ridiculous and requires some technical fixing to allow the trains to turn south. Surely it is possible to achieve a simple technical solution to a costly nuisance, with lengthy delays at Adamstown and Clyde Street gates as well as the running cost of the trains for the additional distance.
  1. PARK ‘N RIDEThis issue has not been mentioned in the draft document. It should be considered as part of policy for the future and to assist in achieving goal 10, reduction of road fatalities. The provision of ways to get people out of cars and onto trains will reduce accidents caused by road congestion.There is a need for properly installed Park ’n Ride facilities at many Hunter railway stations . Providing an open paddock space where cars could be left will not be adequate, and will not induce people to leave cars, unprotected and without amenities.These are needed to be established at key locations on the fringes of the city, such as Hexham or Tarro (link to Raymond Terrace area), where cars can be intercepted before they reach the notorious Hexham straight area of congestion. There could be one at Cockle Creek (link to Lake Macquarie areas – east and south) which could take a lot of congestion from that major link road.These need to be installed with comfort facilities and other amenities and retail outlets, which could provide security as well as services that could be useful to commuters. e.g. Childcare, car valet services, dry cleaners, newsagency, refreshment stalls.
  1. BUS SERVICESIn the draft document some mention is made of bus provision but it is the main urban public transport mode of Newcastle and is barely used.The urban transport provision of buses, both public and private is massively unsuccessful.  The situation in greater Newcastle is dire. The service is meandering and slow, taking far longer than cars from almost any suburb into Newcastle.It is debatable whether the bus provision should be continued or whether a review with the aim of a system change should be undertaken. Bus use has fallen despite previous reviews, therefore some other transport modes should be considered.

    Light rail as introduced in many cities with success should be considered, not as replacement for the current well used intercity service, but as an additional system.

    The John Hunter Hospital could be linked to the entire city with a line continuing on to the University of Newcastle. Both of these institutions were built without regard to transport. The Royal Hospital had been well served by rail to Newcastle Station and its replacement well away from the city centre, with poor transport access has been problematic.  (Its relocation has also contributed to the decline of the Newcastle CBD.) The university in its magnificent bush location, was sited with no consideration of transport. It has since been provided with a rail link at Warabrook but could benefit from a rail option on the other side.

    A coastal light rail could link Swansea Heads to Port Stephens with some foresight and initiative. Mr Bradley would not have ignored the Tourist potential in such a scheme.

    PRT (private rapid transport) vehicles or other newer technology could be explored as a means to provide a mass transit system, which would be more acceptable to the public than buses, which are constantly rejected.

    * The Save Our Rail Westrans proposal should be examined as a means to better connections to outer suburban areas and to locations currently not well serviced. This document includes WELL – Western Education Link Line and a proposal for Commuter “Clipper” Buses.  The document includes maps and graphs showing public transport use trends.  Available on: saveourrail.org.au (direct link)

    IF BUSES ARE TO BE CONTINUED

    There is a need for two different types of bus provision.

    1. Express services at peak times from the further points – e.g. from Swansea to Newcastle direct with few stops.
    2. A service that goes closer to homes for those who cannot easily access major stops and who are not limited by time constraints.
  1. SCHOOL TRANSPORTThere is no mention of this huge expanding transport use in the Master Plan.
    • Children are being transported at Government expense over great distances, often passing many equally suitable schools on the way.  This is a gross waste of public money, which is providing profit to many private bus owners.As a former teacher I consider it is detrimental to children to be transported over long distances to reach school. In past times this was necessary as often high schools were not available locally. It was not the best situation then and fatigue was a concern but was unavoidable. It is not the best situation now, and is certainly unnecessary in many instances with high schools being more adequately provided in country towns.  Even in the past small schools were provided closer to the homes in rural districts, but many of these have been closed.  I have seen very young children waiting for buses before 7.00 a.m. to be taken to a school, when there is a public school a few km away and secondary aged children catching multiple buses to go to a private school in Newcastle, when they could attend one closer.
    • While it is necessary that children are provided with transport to achieve an education, there are great anomalies since the provision of free transport to the “school of choice” rather than the nearest public school. The system needs review.
    • The safety of children travelling by bus to school should be seriously considered. If buses are to be the means of transport it should be mandatory for them to be fitted with seat belts.
    • Trains do not seem to be considered as a means of school transport.  This should be a first option over the use of private buses. It seems to have become automatic to pay private bus operators, where once special school trains were running. This is a safer means of transport and would lessen road congestion.

On behalf of the wider community of the Hunter Region we ask that this submission is considered and acted upon.

Joan Dawson, President,
George Paris, Secretary,
Save Our Rail NSW Inc.  26/10/12