Cost too high for Newcastle light rail? Is that why they won’t tell? – Media release 10/11/2014

Sydney’s light rail cost has blown out by $600million.

Could this be related to the reason the cost /benefit analysis for the Newcastle light rail proposal has not been provided in the call for papers at the time of the Upper House Inquiry into local planning?

Mr Hazzard had stated in a radio interview in May 2012 that it was “not economically viable” or “sustainable” to install a light rail system in Newcastle because there were two few residents and businesses within the CBD to warrant it.

By December, in launching the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy he announced a Cabinet decision to cut the rail line short at Wickham and lo and behold, install “light rail” after all.

Questions are being raised as to who made sufficient waves for Mr Hazzard to come up with a 180 degree turn. Who got at him between his May statement and the December decision? Was it a case of brown paper bags or did he really think Newcastle’s population was going to increase sufficiently to justify the expenditure of public money on something he had said was “not economically viable?”

The other question is hanging in the air now as to why those papers dealing with costs and benefits are not being made available in accordance with Standing Order 52.

“I believe it is because Mr Hazzard had been correct in his original assessment – that indeed it will not be a proper use of public funding because the population is insufficient to support it and that it therefore failed the test for viability,” said Joan Dawson, President of Save Our Rail.

“I don’t believe it will ever become a reality and the community is being duped into acceptance of losing their rail service because the Government has bowed to the demands of developers with vested interests. I think the analysis confirms it would be a dud and that is why it is being kept secret” she adds.

Developer advantage is only logical reason for a proposal to rip out an efficient direct transport system at great cost in order to provide a second rate transit involving the inconvenience of being off-loaded with the replacement tram tracks within half a block from the original line, in a dog-legged hybrid track running down an already crowded main street.

Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian has stated that this is not a transport decision and certainly it does not make sense according to transport experts such as James McIntosh, who spoke of land value and Prof Peter Newman, who has warned of the negative impact on businesses in the CBD.

Has the Minister been put up a tree by her more powerful colleagues? If so the higher up she climbs the harder will be the fall so it may be in her best interest to have an in-house revolt and call off the planned cessation of train services to Newcastle on Boxing Day.

The truth will emerge in the end so stop the chop, Gladys, spend the public’s money on improvements and come out smelling of roses. Currently the smell is pretty whiffy around this decision, which is not beneficial to transport and certainly against the interests of the Hunter Region, your other portfolio.

Joan Dawson, President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc.
PO Box 212

PH: 0408 618 198