Newcastle Save Our Rail President Joan Dawson
SWAP A HERITAGE STATION FOR A CARPORT?
Victor P Taffa
That’s what Newcastle is being asked to accept for an interchange at Wickham! It’s a third world pre-fab without walls or adequate platforms and certainly won’t give the sort of welcoming presence you get at Newcastle Station.
To add insult to injury the truncation of the Newcastle Rail Line will cause passenger inconvenience including considerable delay, traffic will be chaotic with many opting for car transport and there will be greatly reduced car parking spaces. Railway Street crossing closure will divert traffic to Stewart Avenue as well as causing anxiety to nearby businesses, which depend on foot traffic as well as easy car access over the line.
There has been no evidence of a Business Case for the Newcastle Revitalisation project or the rail line truncation as a component of it. Businesses in the west end have not been consulted over the Railway Street closure and businesses in close proximity to Newcastle Station are concerned over the likely loss of custom.
“Rail means business” Professor Peter Newman told Newcastle Business Club (Newcastle Herald 20/04/05) and cutting the line will be bad for economic growth.”
Professor Newman was influential in the success of the Perth transport system, which is a world model for a prosperous city based on rail.
Why has Newcastle not listened to Professor Newman and other notable planning and sustainability experts? Is it because the NSW Government has been in bed with large developers through its agency the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) and currently in partnership with them through its other arm, UrbanGrowth?
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has been handed a poisoned chalice by Planning, to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. She speaks of providing “seamless connections,” “transforming the area” and “improved traffic movements” – My response is:
- Currently the train trip from Sydney, Lake Macquarie, Scone, Maitland or Dungog is seamless. There is no way getting off a train to climb onto a bus or tram can be “seamless.” To be seamless with truncation is an oxymoron and Newcastle people are being taken for morons if they accept that statement. She also lists the modes that will have this easy connection but makes no mention of the Stockton Ferry. How can they have seamless access from Stockton and Port Stephens?
- “Transforming the area”? Into what? A Nissan hut camp, even a Men’s Shed would not be such a breezeway.
- “Improved traffic movements” is certainly not what this will bring. People will be so badly affected by the inconvenience and getting to work late, they will jump in the car and add to the congestion. The closure of Railway Street will take out a major route into Newcastle therefore drivers will be seeking alternatives, including Stewart Avenue, which sounds monstrous with a free-for –all of pedestrians, buses, cars and maybe trams. There is no evidence of a traffic study into the implications of the rail truncation, so how can Ms. Berejiklian make such a statement?
Newcastle Station is a magnificent heritage icon, despite seemingly being the victim of a “demolition by neglect” process. It was built in 1859 and even though it has been subjected to lessappropriate modifications and the pigeons are in the beautiful lantern roof, it nevertheless deserves to be respected and preserved.
This station has the qualities for a terminus that are required, but are not apparent in the ridiculous tin shed proposal. The trains currently get to it direct, (4 minutes from Wickham Station); it has easy street level access for all passengers and serves to connect buses, ferries and cars. There are four platforms to cater for all diesel and electric trains. From it passengers can take scooters, bikes, prams and heavy luggage. At Newcastle Station you have amenities, you can actually buy refreshments and be protected from the weather while you eat your pie and drink your coffee.
Passengers may choose to sometimes eat al fresco but I don’t think passengers will enjoy a forced interchange and an alfresco waiting experience.