Newcastle rail supporters rally to save line before it closes between Wickhma and Newcastle on Boxing Day

Save the rail protesters rally in Pacific Park and Civic Park on Sunday. Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson with opposition leader John Robertson.
Save the rail protesters rally in Pacific Park and Civic Park on Sunday. Save Our Rail president Joan Dawson with opposition leader John Robertson.

ABOUT 2000 rail supporters rallied in the city on Sunday in a last-minute effort to save the Newcastle rail line.

Earlier this month  Premier Mike Baird and state Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian were in town to stamp their commitment on a promise to truncate the rail on Boxing Day.

However, community groups such as  Save Our Rail, the Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance (NICRA) and the Throsby Villages Alliance rallied in protest at the rail cut and new high-rise developments.

Many residents, along with the state opposition, say the government has no legal basis to cut the rail.

Protesters rally in Pacific Park to march down Hunter Street to Civic Park

Protesters rally in Pacific Park to march down Hunter Street to Civic Park

Hunter Concerned Citizens group spokesman David Blyth said the state government had intentionally drip-fed information to Newcastle residents with their plans for the city, which include several high-rise apartment blocks in the CBD and a number of developments along the existing rail corridor. 

He said many Newcastle residents were only now realising what the rail cut and the proposed high-rise buildings would mean for the city.

‘‘Commuters from the Central Coast, Maitland and the Hunter will be seriously disadvantaged. Many will be forced into cars, resulting in traffic gridlock,’’ he said.

‘‘There will be hundreds of extra buses on the roads and travel time from Hamilton to the city will treble.’’

The high-rise buildings  would cause shadows throughout the city.

Council does U-turn

NEWCASTLE council will write to  NSW Premier Mike Baird informing him that it no longer supports the cutting of the Newcastle rail line.

The elected council has supported the state government’s urban renewal project during several votes over the past year, which included a transport interchange at Wickham.

However, the make-up of the council changed since the resignation of Jeff McCloy and the election of Nuatali Nelmes as lord mayor.

Labor councillors put forward a motion at last Tuesday’s meeting supporting the retention of the rail line. 

The council’s transport plan aims to increase public transport usage by 400 per cent. Reports by the state government predict train patronage will drop significantly once the rail line is cut. 

Details guarded

THE finer details surrounding the removal of the heavy rail line into Newcastle are being kept under wraps by the state government. 

Last week the Newcastle Herald revealed contaminants are still likely to be under the rail tracks, including asbestos. 

The state government is yet to to release a ‘‘residual corridor management plan’’, a condition of the project’s approval. Work on the truncation is officially meant to start on Boxing Day. Workers started to cut the line at Wickham  last Sunday then welded it back together again.  

Ten cabins were installed behind platform 1 at Hamilton station NSW TrainLink staff  while new overhead wiring structures were  built between Hamilton and Wickham stations.

As The Star went to print, the new bus timetable to replace the heavy rail trains had still not been released.  

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