Save Our Rail keeps on track – Media Release 24/06/2013

Save Our Rail yesterday determined to keep on track to ensure Newcastle and the Hunter benefit from any funding decisions with the best possible transport outcome.

The Minister for transport in her ABC interview last Friday said she “couldn’t wait to get down and dirty in the planning” for Newcastle and also indicated that no feasibility study had been undertaken for the light rail suggested in the budget. When asked about a Wickham truncation Gladys Berejiklian was non-committal as to the location of an interchange/ terminus.

This indecision suggests no plan exists – and SOR wants to be involved in that planning with Gladys and her department.   We are preparing better options for use of infrastructure funding and we ask the following questions:

Is the notion of “light rail” being dangled before Newcastle as a sweetener for agreeing to privatisation of the port? Will that idea be scrapped when it is revealed that it is not feasible?  It has been stated that Newcastle’s population is insufficient to make light rail viable, so what has changed?  Is selling (99 year lease) of port with loss of $84m p.a. undervaluing this asset, at $700 million?  (Botany and Kembla brought $5 billion).

SOR research indicates that the best possible location of an interchange/terminus is where it currently exists – Newcastle Station. This magnificent station, claimed as “best end station in the world”, has existing facilities for train/bus links and is close to the ferry wharf. It could be developed as a cash flow asset.  The heavy rail connects the cities of Newcastle, Sydney, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Gosford and has capability of extension to Taree and Tamworth. Why spend the port money to rip it up?

Better value for such funding  could include, dedicated express services from  Newcastle to Sydney, restore Cessnock passenger services, build  Glendale interchange, solve the Scone barrier, install crossings at Worth Place and Steel Street,  or even a light rail beach connection from Swansea to Port Stephens bridging Newcastle Harbour and  linking Newcastle to its airport. Why not if the money is there?  Illawarra got its Sea Cliff Bridge at a cost of $52m.  Something worthwhile should be demanded for the loss of Newcastle’s major asset, its port – not the destruction of its other great asset, The Newcastle Rail Line.

There is no evidence that the projects for Newcastle renewal would benefit from the closure of the rail and every indication that it would have the opposite effect.  Trains bring customers and will be valuable for the new court facility and the proposed University campus and other developments planned with similar low parking provision.

Save Our Rail’s campaign is alive and well.  Our September Railfest will be a terrific community event!  Our ever growing data base of members and supporters tells us that public opinion is with us. Petitions are being signed in hundreds. With thousands ready for presentation to the Government we still welcome more.

We will take up the community’s wishes and Improve Not Remove.

Joan Dawson,

For further information or comment please contact:
Joan Dawson
President Save Our Rail NSW Inc
Mobile 0408 618 198