Newcastle demands rail line stay open



NEWCASTLE — On October 23, more than 500 people packed into a room at the Town Hall to oppose the closure of the rail line from Broadmeadow to Newcastle station.

Organised by the Save Our Rail committee, the meeting was attended by participants from across the Hunter Valley and the Central Coast, including a vocal contingent from Stockton that marched from the ferry wharf through the city to the meeting.

Speakers included NSW Labor MP for Newcastle Bryce Gaudry and environmental activist Jack Mundey. Gaudry said he was totally opposed to the closure of the line and demanded much greater transparency in the state Labor government's review of public transport options in the Hunter. He was particularly scathing of the Lower Hunter Transport Working Group, which he referred to as the "track-cutting gang".

"Minister [for public transport] Michael Costa has got it wrong ... [Newcastle] Lord Mayor John Tate has got it wrong", he declared.

Mundey said he found it difficult to understand the decision to remove an integral part of Newcastle by cutting the rail line. He said the decision was linked to the decades-long running-down of rail infrastructure in the interests of the powerful motor vehicle lobby.

"In the last 25 years, $30 billion has been spent on roads nationally, while on rail it has totalled only $0.5 billion — a ratio of 60 to one", said Mundey. "I think that the biggest single error that the NSW government has made is, first of all, ignoring the needs of public transport and secondly, being dictated to by the big developers."

A resolution was adopted demanding the rail line be kept open and that the government improve public transport services for the Hunter. A noon rally will be held on December 6 at Enterprise Park (opposite Newcastle station).

From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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