The Hunter region is growing. Population projections suggest growth of around 150,000 residents over the next 20 years or so. Employment growth by 2046, according to the Bureau of Transport Statistics, is expected to bring 75,000 jobs to the region, 20,000 of them in inner Newcastle.
Ensuring the availability of accessible public transport to the city centre is crucially important. The plans to rip up existing infrastructure and force commuters to make two trips where previously they only had to make one is a bad decision now and for the future of Newcastle.
The idea of a truncated rail line and interchange at Broadmeadow is unfortunately not a new one. It was also considered about ten years ago. At that time Professor Graham Currie from the Institute of Transport Studies at Monash University independently reviewed these proposals and found “significant issues associated with the safety of the interchange” when considering a Broadmeadow interchange, as well as serious concerns for the effect of the rail truncation on patronage.
Professor Currie also found
Removal of the railway will considerably degrade the rail service and encourage car dependence. Improving the railway is consistent with urban densification objectives and encouraging growth in growth centres.
There is no shortage of studies demonstrating the importance of retaining the heavy rail line, but even without these reports common sense tells us the same thing.
Traffic implications for an interchange at either Wickham or Broadmeadow would be huge. Getting buses in and out of these sites would be chaotic, there would be an increase in cars caused by people opting out of the rail because of the interchange. Buses would be caught in the same traffic jam as cars. Traffic jams which would be exacerbated by the addition of light rail to the traffic mix.
Newcastle hosts many large events, like Surfest and Australia Day and New Years Eve celebrations, when the public is encouraged to use rail as an alternative to private transport.
The truncation of the rail would cause major problems for people wanting to travel into Newcastle for these events – especially those with mobility problems, or blind passengers. Also mothers with prams, bike riders, surfers with their boards – the list goes on.
The University of Newcastle CBD campus is to be placed at Civic with an estimated 8,000 students. If heavy rail remains in place there will be a direct connection with the Callaghan campus.
Earlier this year Regional Development Australia Hunter hosted the well respected demographer, and trends forecaster, Bernard Salt, who gave a public lecture on how Newcastle can move forward into the future.
The last slide of the night was a list of “must haves” for any region which hoped to thrive and be successful. And guess what topped the list? A direct rail connection to a capital city.
The only people to benefit from ripping up the rail are those with vested interests in developing the area. It’s not okay to spend over $300 million dollars of public money bowing to the whims of developers ahead of the needs of the residents of Newcastle.
A petition recently presented to the NSW Parliament by the Save Our Rail group sported over 11 thousand signatures. The petition called on the NSW government to keep the rail line in place and improve existing services and infrastructure. The fact that 11 thousand people were keen to sign off on their support for the rail line in Newcastle shows people like me are not alone in our views.
Public money can be much better spent on far more worthy and important projects in Newcastle: Fixing the Adamstown rail crossing, finishing the Glendale interchange, redeveloping the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, doing important flood preparation work in Wallsend and improving existing rail infrastructure.