Save Our Rail confronts anti rail PR machine

Members of Developers Against the Rail Corridor.

Community group Save Our Rail held a lively picket outside a 700-strong meeting of the anti-rail lobby Fix Our City (FOC) at Newcastle Town Hall on June 3.

FOC is a business and developer lobby group whose explicit aim is to have the Hunter Development Corporation (HDC) “urban renewal report” implemented.

The HDC report’s main proposal is to cut the Newcastle at Wickham station.

Save Our Rail drew 150 people to the counter-rally. It had the support of the Rail Tram and Bus Union, which brought several large union banners.

Save Our Rail tried to enter the meeting but was told the FOC meeting was a “supporters rally” and that it was not welcome. People entering the meeting were told to sign a petition supporting FOC before entering.

Many attendees said they went to the meeting mistakenly believing FOC was a community-based group. Some thought they were attending a Save Our Rail rally and left when they found out FOC supported cutting the rail line.

The rally was joined by satirical pro-developer group Developers Against the Rail Corridor — Building In the Corridor Soon (DARC-BICS) who “enthusiastically supported” FOC.

Four members of DARC-BICS stood on the front steps of the town hall and threw insults at the “anti-progress heathen troglodytes” from Save Our Rail who had gathered across the street.

Chanting “the speculators, united, will never be defeated”, DARC-BICS said they were on “developer strike” and would not improve the many vacant and run-down buildings they own in the Hunter until the rail line was cut.

Spokesman for the group Paul McCoy said: “We have waited far too long for the NSW government to remove this train line so that we can build on it.”

DARC-BICS attended the FOC meeting and applauded loudly after each speaker finished their piece. McCoy said times were changing and member for Newcastle Jodi McKay needed to "wake up and smell the DARC-BICS".

Professor Steffen Lehmann from the School of Architecture at the University of Newcastle spoke at the FOC meeting in favour of cutting the line, and presented artist impressions of a “green corridor” to replace it.

These images were produced by fourth-year architecture students who had been asked to provide a vision of a rail-free Newcastle. It is a condition of study that the university can use such artwork without student permission.

Lehmann was appointed by notoriously pro-developer planning minister Frank Sartor, as a representative on the Newcastle Stakeholder Reference Panel, for the Newcastle City Centre Masterplan. Lehmann is also a consultant for the HDC.

Save Our Rail is campaigning for the installation of level pedestrian crossings over the rail line.

The group has also called for a transport interchange in the western suburb of Glendale and improvements to stations in the greater Hunter region instead of spending $650 million to cut the rail line two kilometres back to Wickham.

[For more information on the Save Our Rail campaign, visit]