Initially Save Our Rail had very little contact with the incoming Liberal/National Party state government despite attempts to have meetings with the new Premier, Barry O’Farrell and his ministers.
Our only means of conveying our message regarding the future of the Newcastle Rail Line was to attend forums being organised by the planning and transport departments. The people who attended the Long Term Transport meeting in Newcastle Town Hall in April 2012 well remember that the overwhelming sentiment was to retain and improve the Newcastle Rail Line to Newcastle Station. This was not recorded in the official report of that meeting and despite protests from Save Our Rail and other individuals the record remains inaccurate.
Our members have continued to campaign and maintain a presence at events such as Our Town Model Show, at rail stations, in writing letters to politicians and letters to editors of newspapers and gathering signatures on petitions. We have joined with other groups and held discussion groups to ensure that the SOR message is aired. I am grateful to all who have helped – every small contribution has been valuable and appreciated.
It seems however that the only advice the government has been prepared to accept has been developer driven through HDC and HBC. Save Our Rail believes this advice has been faulty and that the NSW Government has been misled into thinking that Newcastle needs to lose a valuable piece of infrastructure.
On December 14, 2012 came the bombshell announcement by Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, that the Government would truncate the rail line at Wickham. This major intercity transport link to the heart of Newcastle was to be replaced by buses down Hunter Street. Aside from the technical difficulties, the huge waste of funding and the stupidity of this plan it would create great inconvenience for all train passengers coming to Newcastle and even hardship for many.
Save Our Rail is therefore in intensive campaign mode and I am grateful to the people who are putting in many hours to achieve success. Our efforts are continuing and we need to keep on with submissions, delegations and publicity to ensure that the Premier, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Planning get the message that the majority in the Hunter oppose cutting the rail line.
I thank the members of the Executive who have been prepared to go the extra distance and support me. Our long term Secretary George, is not standing for election this time and I pay tribute to his continued efforts and tenacity in writing hundreds of letters and working through difficulties to promote the campaign. I value my friendship with George and his great ten year contribution to SOR. I know George will fight any health issues just as strenuously as he has fought against bureaucracy and government intransigence.
Thank you all for being part of SOR and keep up the good work. We need you.
(President, Save Our Rail Lower Hunter.)