Victor P Taffa
Political parties at one point in time actually debated issues that affected our society and as such were seen as relevant in our lives. Over the decades people decided on such weighty matters as communism, tariffs, federation, Climate Change, Republicanism, decimal currency to name a few.
So what real debate has occurred with regards to the Newcastle Railway? Over many years the Hunter Development Corporation has wanted to close the Newcastle Railway. The Hunter Development Corporation was established by the New South Wales Government.
On September 14 2006 the Labor Party National Executive voted 13-7 to disendorse sitting State Member for Newcastle Bryce Gaudry and expels the 50 strong Carrington Branch that included Arthur Wade who served as the Labor State Member between 1968 and 1988.
When the National Executive of the Labor Party disendorsed Bryce Gaudry one could be forgiven for thinking that the actions of Labor’s National executive mirrored its actions in 1963 when the 36 men of the National executive of the Labor Party kept then Leader Gough Whitlam and deputy Leader and Arthur Calwell waiting outside Canberra’s Kingston Hotel as they decided Defence alliance policy.
Bryce Gaudry campaigned to save the Newcastle Railway and Transport Minister Michael Costa canned the Parramatta-Epping Rail link and also promised to close the Newcastle Railway.
Bryce Gaudry won the seat of Newcastle from Independent George Keegan in 1991 and held the seat for the Labor Party until 2007. The Railway was seen to be an impediment to development because accessibility declined due to the policy of the abolition of level crossings. Along the corridor many level crossings were closed and this in turn frustrated the lives of Novocastrians no end.
Matthew Morris State Member for Charlestown recently said to locals that “we (State Labor) caused the problem by removing many of the level crossings”. Sonia Hornery has been inundated with calls for the retention of the Railway because the people of Wallsend need to continue to be able to travel by train to the C.B.D. of Newcastle. Ms Hornery has been conducting her own surveys following revelations that the Rees Government is spending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to find a survey result that will support the closure of the Railway.
On May 26 2009 the Rees Labor Government brought down a report that basically recommended the closure of the Newcastle Railway. The following matters should be considered when contemplating the future transport needs of Newcastle. The Newcastle Central Business District (CBD) requires a Railway service to be retained as it directly connects Sydney, Central Coast and Wollongong thus enabling overseas tourists with a direct connection from Sydney International Airport Railway Station.
Unless it can be proved otherwise there remains a case to promote Newcastle to the world by travelling by train to the heart of the Newcastle CBD and the beach. Page 12, Section 1.3 of the Hunter Development Corporation Report dated 26 May 2009 contradicts the above argument.
Page 15 of the report promotes Cycleways. Cycleways are needed however why does the Railway line have to close in order to promote cycleways?
If the report isn’t biased and independent why does it refer to: “The removal of the rail line to Wickham…” etc if this report was an independent assessment wouldn’t the report use such language as ‘cutting back’? Clearly the tone of this report is not an independent view of the issue.
Transport & Car Parking:
This section refers to connecting light rail to shopping centres. Light Rail can occur while the Heavy Rail line remains in place. All the platitudes in the world will not guarantee the provision of Light Rail if the Heavy Line is removed. The removal of the Tramways of Newcastle in 1950 makes any pledge to build Light Rail at the expense of Heavy Rail fanciful to say the least.
Connectivity & Permeability:
This section refers to the provision of lifts and footbridges. Why does the removal of the Railway require the need for these important public facilities to be constructed? Why can’t lifts and footbridges be constructed now?
This section refers to the compendium of Rail services: Why do Rail services from Newcastle to Sydney take 15 minutes longer than 50 years ago? This has been the case for many years and in order to increase patronage on OUR railways, high speed services on new or upgraded lines will achieve this and avoid the need to close the Newcastle Railway. As an example a high speed railway line that is dual track, fully electrified would enable trains to join at a ‘diamond junction’ at Maitland and connect Cessnock with Berowra to the Northern Line thus providing the people of Newcastle with a new service.
The Northern Line would improve as a result and this new line would cut travel times from the Newcastle CBD to Sydney significantly. To close the line to the Newcastle CBD will only serve to CUT Newcastle from the existing rail network and while a short term cash grab will lead to economic doom in the years ahead. The report refers to the compendium of City Rail travel statistics as an excuse to close the Newcastle Railway down. An Act of Parliament is required to close down a Railway line. According to reliably informed sources the Rees Government is seeking to pass the Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill 2009 that would circumvent that legislation.
Should an Act allowing for the circumventing of existing legislation pass through Parliament then every railway line in New South Wales can close tomorrow with the stoke of a ministerial pen. If the Rees Government denied that this would occur, who would believe this when the Tramways of Sydney and Newcastle were closed in 1961 & 1950 respectively?
On which particular railway station do we have the STOP REVIVE SURVIVE signs or floral wreathes on telegraph poles? What is the Road Toll on a Railway Station?
The report makes the following statement: “Generally there is significant spare capacity on these buses” Why do we need Buses so Cycleways can be built? Isn’t the Heavy Railway the only form of transport that has its own right of way? Isn’t cutting the Railway line back to Wickham the same as cutting the Railway in Sydney back to Redfern? Wasn’t this theory attempted with Metro madness in Sydney? The last time trains terminated at Redfern was prior to the opening of Sydney Central Station in 1906. Isn’t cutting the Newcastle Railway line like going ‘back to the future’ and turning the clocks back to 1906?
Page 43 & 44:
The report supports a hybrid Tram/Train. This is the same argument that has been pursued for Metro Rail in Sydney. While I support the ability of a Tram to operate on a Heavy Railway line and then join streets, I do not support the closure of a heavy Railway line anywhere in New South Wales. If as the report recommends a Tram, why bother going to the cost of removing an independently operating Railway and then constructing at a greater cost a tramway? Newcastle lost the Tram in 1950. Why remove the Railway as well?
The report also makes mention that “The Rail line was designed for freight” Where would Newcastle or Sydney or New South Wales be without the Railway? During the 19th Century the then NSW Governor Denison and others tried to argue in favour of horse drawn trams. The then Chief Engineer of the New South Wales Railways John Whitton won the case for standard gauge heavy railways because of the need to move freight effectively. John Whitton won the case for heavy railways and as in the 1850’s New South Wales needs heavy rail to haul freight.
B-Doubles are dangerous and the heavy railways are the place for freight. Former Premier Bob Carr closed down Sydney as a working port “in favour of Port Botany, Wollongong and NEWCASTLE”. Newcastle needs its Railway in the same way that Sydney should never have lost a working port. The Newcastle CBD is dead and that is not the fault of the Railways. The Railway line to a locality also does not encourage crime, graffiti, vandalism or any other anti social behaviour. All of these problems are caused by successive Governments’ policies.
The closure of Railway lines and the lack of the construction of new lines causes young people to sit around and get up to anti-social behaviour because employers will not say it, but if people are not able to access employment or can’t be relied upon to get to work on time then they will not employ those people. The statistics that say only a certain number of people use the train and these figures are measured by the number of tickets sold. While you have no ticket barriers, the statistics on patronage are meaningless.
The argument that the University can be relocated is a smokescreen. If the location of the University is holding back the progress of Newcastle then the return of the Tram along with the Heavy Railway service will ease concerns about the future needs of the University. The 2009 Federal Budget was seeking solutions from Infrastructure Australia and the Rees Government was recommending the removal of Infrastructure. How can the closure of the Newcastle Railway be justified in order to expand Infrastructure?
Should ANY Railway line close in New South Wales, who will tell the Railway workforce that they will not have a job? How can the closure of a Railway be justified in these times of worldwide economic downturn? Who will win? How will Newcastle win? Why was a former State Member for Newcastle and an entire branch of the Australian Labor Party abolished because they supported Newcastle and the Railway?
The 2007 State Election results for Newcastle were pretty decisively organised so that sitting member Bryce Gaudry would not be re-elected. As each count proceeded and candidates were eliminated as preferences were distributed Bryce Gaudry attracted more preferences than Jodi McKay and John Tate eliminated Bryce Gaudry from the count by only 1,022 votes.
Of the Gaudry votes that were distributed John Tate received 3,017 against 2,158 for Labor candidate Jodi McKay. 6,310 votes for Bryce Gaudry were exhausted.
Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate said that “I ran so there would be a contest”
When a democratically elected Member of Parliament can be removed because of a Railway line it is without doubt a very expensive railway line in more ways than one.