TRANSPORT minister Gladys Berejiklian says the government’s legal position is ‘‘clear’’ and it would not be in breach of the law in truncating the Newcastle rail line from Boxing Day, despite Save Our Rail’s eleventh-hour move to derail the plans with a court challenge, reports the Newcastle Herald.
But the group believes it has a strong case as well as ‘‘the court of public opinion on our side’’, president Joan Dawson said.
Legal papers were served on government representatives on Friday and proceedings against the State of NSW have been listed with the Supreme Court for Tuesday morning.
It is expected an application will be heard for an injunction to be issued preventing the start of works on December 26 ahead of a hearing of the case.
As revealed by the Newcastle Herald, the group is seeking to challenge the government’s authority to remove heavy rail infrastructure between Newcastle and Wickham without an Act of Parliament, relying on a section of the Transport Administration Act that suggests one is needed to pull up the tracks.
Section 99A says a railway line can’t be closed without Parliament’s approval, and that a line is closed ‘‘if the land concerned is sold or otherwise disposed of or the railway tracks and other works concerned are removed’’.
But while it has made much of its decision to get rid of the barrier in the city, it has not spelt out exactly how the truncation work will proceed or said explicitly that the tracks would be pulled up.
That has aroused Save Our Rail’s suspicions that the government is skirting such references in the belief it can legally remove all other infrastructure provided it leaves the tracks, at least in the short term.
Overhead wiring is expected to be taken down as soon as possible to make way for new pedestrian crossings and to reduce the potential for theft of copper wiring and vandalism.
‘‘I’ve heard that there are people unhappy with us but quite honestly, the majority of the people as far as we can see really need and want that infrastructure to stay,’’ Mrs Dawson said.
‘‘We are acting for the community, we’re not acting for our own interests.’’