As a new resident of Newcastle, NSW it is hard to imagine a stranger idea than closing the railway access into the city and business center.
Not even the privatised companies who have brought chaos to public transport in the UK have thought of selling off city center stations?because its such a bad idea!
Michael Costa, the NSW State Transport Minister, plans to close four inner city stations and replace services with buses. As Sue Cruickshank, ABC journalist and a wheelchair user said at a rally against these plans held on 6 December “if you kill Newcastle Station you will kill Newcastle.”
Our public transport system is being butchered, and train users with disabilities will be among those hardest hit by these cuts. Costa seems determined to axe these services, and claims that falling passenger numbers and rising costs make it inevitable.
But Dr Bruce McFarlan, an economist at Newcastle University and a campaigner against these cuts analysed the government?s report and found that far from falling rail use has increased by 2.5% to 596,136 per year. He also points out that the government has failed to include costs involved in cutting the rail service such as the cost of the wages of the bus drivers that will run the replacement bus service as well as ignoring the environmental impact.
If the free replacement bus service is not regular it will mean that workers will turn more to their cars and congestion and parking will escalate. And how long will it remain free? All this at a time when the Council is trying to promote Newcastle as a tourist destination.
A recent interview with a German tourist in the Newcastle Herald suggested that many backpackers with no cars chose Newcastle because its railway takes you direct to the beaches and the city!
So who would be the winners? Well the land developers who buy the strip of land, which happens to run along the Hunter river foreshore. They have turned large parts of this area into luxury homes ? obscuring the view of the river. Newcastle Council seems determined to grant the developers planning permission to build these 500K+ apartments and build over the railway land.
Costa has said that all who oppose the plans must be anti-business. When the business in question involves ignoring the needs of those who use the railways, stifling local tourism, and ignoring the effect of increased traffic on our roads so that some property developers can make a killing building luxury units we can?t afford?then you bet were against it.
Public transport should be improved not destroyed so that it is a viable safe alternative to car use. Services need to be increased to provide more options for the people of Newcastle not destroyed.
By Samantha Ashby