No reason to remove the rail line

Originally posted by Tess Winter to the SOR Facebook page in a response to someone in favour of removal of the rail for no reason that he can explain.

I would like to hear what you imagine the benefits will be…
However, the only thing ‘cutting the city in half’ as you say is the lack of places to cross the tracks. They have closed many of them over the years and neglected to build an overpass over the track and Hunter Street too at our busiest – Stewart Street – intersection. We could have had a sweeping high flyover resembling Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge affording wonderful views of the harbour and city as you arrive into Newcastle from Newcastle Street (which becomes Stewart) or from the north along Hannell Street.

But wait until they build high rise buildings where the track now is; nothing will cut the city in half more than this.

Hunter Street and the East End were flourishing before two major shopping centres were built out of town. And the train was there then! What was wrong with ‘the fifties?’ In the fifties there were people in Hunter Street, we should be this lucky. The demise of this part of town was caused by people shopping elsewhere, not a train track.

And it’s a train track, not a wall. You can see right over the tracks to the harbour from the city side and the city form the harbour side with no high buildings or shadows blocking the sun. We could all walk and drive over the tracks easily if more walkways were simply opened.

And why were they closed in the first place? To inconvenience people? I think maybe so, as part of a long term plan to remove the rail.

Think no one uses the train? Go and sit in Newcastle or Civic stations in morning and afternoon peak hours or any time on the weekend. Ask how many tickets have been sold while you are there. Sit and watch how many people board and alight from trains to and from Sydney or Maitland. It is many thousands every week.

I had noticed there were sometimes empty trains, so I looked into it. Hardly a train in service leaves Newcastle empty, ever, but many trains arrive, disembark passengers in Newcastle and leave empty to go to Hamilton where they are cleaned and then return to Newcastle to pick passengers up, so they pass through Stewart Street etc empty, twice – on the way to be cleaned or serviced, and back. So that is actually why we see empty trains.

It may not be yours but it’s a stupid argument to say that we don’t need trains but we do need an interchange, and trams or/ and more buses, because clearly if we don’t need trains why do we need anything to replace them? The second part of that argument defeats the first. The ‘weight’ of the train has nothing to do with it.

Why if we don’t use it are we thinking we need to spend around $500 million (or more, as these costs always blow out) and waste everyone’s time with dismantling and rebuilding while polluting and inconveniencing this town for years, to replace it?

Surely if there is no need for our existing perfectly good public transport service then we don’t need to replace it. We can just get rid of it at a much lesser cost. And then everyone can just walk with their surfboards and prams and luggage and children and wheelchairs those last seven or so (or maybe more) city blocks …

This can only be about dollars, for development over the tracks, nothing else makes the remotest sense.

When the high rise buildings are built over the tracks there will be no views either way. There will be less space and more cars, and more shadows. The land will be privately owned, there will be nowhere to park, and some far less efficient way to bring people into the East End, so that obviously many people will not bother to go there and businesses will suffer and perhaps go under.

Newcastle is not stuck in the 1950s, it’s stuck in the ‘everything must look like it was built today so that we can say we ‘progressed.’ Yet all the best cities have old parts of their city that keep there intrinsic history and difference and character they are usually the more interesting, expensive and sought after areas for tourists and locals alike. ‘Progress’ is a weasel word. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Why is pulling out an historical working, train service ‘progress’?

Why is building a new Chatswood, Sydney style of building for the university instead of them occupying many otherwise unused buildings along Hunter Street, ‘progress.”

Why should all the cities of the world look the same? Why is homogenization better than keeping the difference? Newcastle has many worthwhile buildings form much earlier eras than the fifties. What’s the fifties got to do with it? The East End has a good collection of character buildings but it’s not just the buildings; it’s their placement on the lie of the land and the height and vistas of things. The East End has an organic rightness about it. Part of that is because it is low rise. It has history, diversity and character…

So does Dubrovnik, Paris, Florence, Venice, Prague, Rome, Lisbon, Amsterdam and many often considered to be the most beautiful cities in the world. Clearly this city is destined for some high rise, bad enough of itself, but to put it in the East End would be just irresponsible and thuggish. Buildings of 20 stories height, in the style of 2014 architecture will be the end of the quintessential charm of our East End.

But I digress; part of the charm of the East End is the train. It is, in my well travelled opinion, historic and romantic besides being useful, but mostly its THERE.

Eventually, maybe even by 2025, there may be a fast train along the East coast but, it would appear, not into Newcastle’s centre, not to the beaches or harbour or city east. No, you will need to find another way to get there.

And while they are taking away the perfectly good train we already have and replacing it with, something, hopefully, in the future, there will be noise and dust and inconvenience for everyone who lives, works or goes into the east end or along the harbour, for as long as it all takes.

Sure if we were starting from scratch it may be wise to build a tramline in the city and all along the beaches. But we aren’t and this government is about to spend a fortune on removing this good service and replacing it with something that many are hoping (or dreaming) is actually going to be better or even as good, instead of putting that money into health and education or a million other things that we would all actually be better off with.

And there will be a great cost in dollars, a ridiculous amount, to give us (sometime in the future) something we already have, and worse; to find the means to pay for this craziness by selling off another profitable city asset (the port). It’s like exchanging Mayfair for a free park in a parking station. If we were playing monopoly we would know we had lost – it’s a little insane.

Until you remember that politicians get kickbacks like free bottles of grange and they pave the way for developers to build high rise over railway corridors because THEY certainly know how to play monopoly. Some politicians are developers too.
Well that’s the way I see it.

Tess Winter (via SOR Facebook page)