Traffic Chaos in Rio – Lessons for Newcastle

Submitted by Joan Dawson, President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.

The intention to sever Newcastle from all other cities by truncating the rail line should be opposed by all who care about the city and its future prospects.

I have recently been in Rio de Janeiro where the traffic situation is hopeless, with buses end to end in gridlock. Moving three city blocks in three hours is the norm.  Commuters have to allow at least three hours to get to work on time if they are lucky, according to the tour guide, who lives in a beachside suburb to the north and commutes to the city.

The city had an efficient rail system until 1980 when the city fathers in their wisdom, decided to close it down, so a beautiful old railway station stands derelict, while buses crawl by in endless frustration. In a pre-arranged tour,  lunch  was scheduled for 12.00 noon but the restaurant was reached at 5.00 the dismay of those diabetics trapped on board the helpless bus.

Surprise surprise, there is now a community based movement something like Save Our Rail trying to bring back the trains to Rio.

A quotation in the shipboard publication, Australia Today, headed, “Russell Crowe Slates Rio’s Traffic Chaos” began as follows:

“Ten weeks before the city expects to welcome throngs of World cup fans, Hollywood star Russell crow slated Rio’s chaotic traffic during a visit… “What I found was chaos,” he told Broadcaster Globo’s Fantastico program … adding that coming out of the airport the surrounding area was none too scenic.”

I also shared his disappointment over the neglected state of the city. Heritage buildings that had indications of having been quite splendid were everywhere, lying derelict or in the process of being demolished. The natural assets are great, including the huge rock of  Mount Sugarloaf (Yes! They have one there!) and  the other majestic rock with the Christ the Redeemer statue dominating the skyline. These attractions warrant a more conserving and caring city environment with decent public transport. How will they cope with the World Cup? And the Olympics?

City fathers of Newcastle please learn from the costly mistakes made in other cities, such as Auckland where they closed off the rail and later restored it at great cost.  And be warned,  City Fathers of Newcastle, don’t let the Rio debacle occur here, as it will kill the commercial and tourism prospects, especially with Our Town on show for  the Asian Cup and other
such events.

You’ve been advised by transport experts over the past decade, that Newcastle needs its mass transit system, currently an efficient intercity service, so consider that advice. Don’t spend public money to destroy it.

I  am a witness to a bus load of tourists vowing never to return to a city despite its magnificent natural attractions, because of its traffic chaos.

Joan Dawson
President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.