Newcastle rail line debate back in court

The long-awaited appeal of the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that the government lacks the authority to remove the heavy rail between Wickham and Newcastle is listed for hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, reports the Newcastle Herald.

The state government and community group Save Our Rail have each filed appeals to different aspects of Justice Michael Adam’s ruling delivered on Christmas Eve last year, which tied the government’s hands before they could start ripping out the tracks on Boxing Day.

Not to be entirely thwarted, it ceased running trains, pulled out boom gates, installed several ‘‘temporary’’ crossings and left the tracks to rot. The case –and arguably the government’s broader revitalisation vision for the city– turns on a section of the Transport Administration Act.

Section 99A says a ‘‘rail infrastructure owner’’ can’t close a rail line unless they have the approval of parliament – an act.

The court hearing flushed out the elaborate plan – overhead wiring and boom gates would be transferred by owner RailCorp to the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) on Boxing Day.

HDC would then take ownership of the land using its powers under compulsory acquisition laws.

Justice Adams noted he was ‘‘not concerned with whether the project is a good one or a bad one’’, before ruling that HDC would still be bound by the Transport Administration Act even though the acquisition would not amount to a sale or land ‘disposal’.

‘‘It’s clearly quite a complicated device, as described by Justice Adams, to avoid the application of the Transport Administration Act,’’ Ms Cross said on Friday.

‘‘But we’re confident that just as he saw what it was, a clear construction of the legislation will indicate that really what the government’s simply got to do is introduce a bill to parliament to close the rail line.’’

Read the full article at the Newcastle Herald.