Flog the port to flog the rail line! – Media Release 18/06/2013

What parallel universe do we live in?

The O’Farrell Government is showing desperation with plans to sell off the Port of Newcastle in order to fund the destruction of the city’s major transport link, the heavy rail line direct to Newcastle Station and to the harbour.

This is like selling off the family silver – allowing the major asset of the city, its magnificent port, the envy of other cities, to be flogged off. Shame Mr O’Farrell and shame Mr Owen! Newcastle should unite to stop this madness.

The rail link direct to the heart of the city is also an asset the envy of other cities. This is a major intercity connection – linking Newcastle with Sydney, Maitland, Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast and with the potential for further extensions to other cities – Taree and Tamworth.

It cannot be “replaced” with light rail. These are two different commodities. It is like saying you can throw away the family car and replace it with a dinky tricycle. Capacity and capability are at variance and an experiment in trying to “replace” one with the other will be catastrophic for Newcastle.

Overseas experience has proved that city’s prosper with rail and cities where it has been removed have declined.  Auckland is a classic example, later paying huge amounts to have the rail line restored. Perth considered removing its major heavy rail, changed direction and now has a system that is used as a model, with worldwide acclaim. Perth is not divided by the rail, which has multiple crossings, but is served well with an efficient, integrated system of transport. Melbourne and Adelaide have followed suit.

Newcastle will be the loser in two directions. It will be the opposite of “revitalisation” – many jobs will be lost and any revival of this great city jeopardised. Newcastle suffered following closure of BHP, the relocation of the Royal Hospital, the growth of satellite shopping centres and the effects of the earthquake, but it has resilience and is now entering a phase of re-growth and prosperity, which will be reversed with this double whammy. The loss of its port and rail in one hit will be like a bomb has hit Newcastle.

Those promoting the flogging of the port and closing the Newcastle Rail Line do not have the best interests of the city at heart. They have only a quick profit motive in expanding their own development opportunity.

Does this mean the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy (NURS) is dead?  It depended on buses for flexibility we were told.  This proposed light rail will be on the track where rail already exists. What a waste! If the money is available for light rail it should run somewhere that doesn’t already have rail, e.g. along the coast. That would be something – a rail line all the way along the coast from Dudley to Newcastle Beach and on to Mayfield.  Besides, the previous statement was that light rail was not “viable” in Newcastle, because there wasn’t sufficient population.  How has it suddenly become viable and where are all the extra people?

Save Our Rail supports the revitalisation of Newcastle and believes that the projects in the NURS are all able to proceed with the rail line intact and with benefit from it.  There is no justification in destroying an existing rail line to install a different train on the same tracks and cause distress and hardship in getting from one to the other, especially for those with disability.

Save Our Port! Save Our Rail! Save Our City! Don’t let them sell off Newcastle.

Joan Dawson
President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.
PO Box 212 ISLINGTON 2296
Ph: 0408 618 198