By Tim Stewart
NEWCASTLE — Newcastle University activists appear to have won two transport issues on campus. State transport minister Bruce Baird has made a firm commitment to build a university train station, and the university has agreed to reconsider a proposal for car-parking fees.
The campus is some 12 km from the city centre. Public transport services seem almost purposely designed to encourage private motor vehicles use. Bus time-tabling is irregular, with some students taking an hour to travel a journey that is 15 minutes by car.
When the campus green group WAGS decided in May to hold a rally to demand a university train station, the Student Representative Council saw it as an opportunity to push the train station as an issue in the NSW election. Some 200 students rallied at the proposed site for the station on May 22, and heard parliamentary candidates voice their support for the station.
In the meantime, WAGS members boarded a train at Maitland, and were able stop the train at the university.
A ministerial investigation of the train station issue was held over the semester break, the outcome of which was an official go-ahead for the university station.
The SRC then launched its campaign against the intended introduction of car-parking fees. The fees were initially destined for general revenue, and then later, for the building of a multistorey car park.
The SRC objected on the grounds that this did nothing to solve transport problems, was disadvantaging staff and students and was likely to destroy a significant proportion of the native bushland on campus.
On the morning of August 14, students blockaded all entrances to the university car parks, causing bottlenecks blocking traffic over four western suburbs and across major arterial roads.
Residents near the university voiced support for the student action, claiming that the fees would cause students and staff to park in nearby suburbs, creating noise and congestion.
The university council has now set up a working committee, which is reinvestigating the issue of parking fees.