Report raises serious doubts over Newcastle rail truncation process

Pressure is mounting on the state ­government to delay the Boxing Day truncation of the Hunter rail line until it can clearly demonstrate the benefit of a Wickham interchange, reports the Maitland Mercury.

The parliamentary inquiry into Hunter planning decisions tabled its interim report on Thursday.

The report asked that the government take no steps to remove the rail infrastructure until a peer-reviewed report thoroughly considered the economic, social and environmental costs and ­benefits of the alternative options.

“If the government and the Premier [Mike Baird] are genuinely interested in the best outcome for the Hunter Valley, including Newcastle and Maitland, they will heed the report,” the inquiry’s deputy chairman David Shoebridge MLC said.

Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson said the interim findings would fuel the community group’s threatened legal challenge.

“I think the committee’s findings justify our position, which is against spending such huge amounts of money when it’s of no proven ­benefit, especially to Maitland ­people and people further up the ­valley,” she said.

“We will use every avenue ­available to us to keep the rail next week [and] we are still pursuing legal avenues.”

The report made eight recommendations.

The report asks that if the rail truncation remains the preferred option that the government first implement the trams before dismantling the tracks.

Read the full article at the Maitland Mercury.