Is it really worth keeping a rail line running at a loss of over 100 million per year just so an average passenger loading of 12 per train can have a 4 minute trip?
The solution to the economic problem of a rail line that loses 100 million per year would be to cancel all the loss-making services that use it (yes, that means Maitland/Telarah and Morisset as well as Scone and Dungog) and then remove the line because after those cuts it serves little purpose (Central Coast and Sydney services being handled with minimal alterations at Broadmeadow, treating the Hamilton loop tracks as turnback sidings and using a better bus interchange than previously proposed). No government has had the stomach for such a solution, despite the urging of NSW Treasury. Relocating the terminus away from the present CBD simply adds to the capital cost and depresses the farebox revenue because long haul passengers resent break of journey. That is not a solution to the economic problem, which is tolerated because the rail line provides a service to the public, and the voters would lash out if the services that use it were withdrawn. It is completely artificial to look at the Hamilton to Newcastle section or any part of it as an optional accessory to the area served by the trains that run on that section and use the Newcastle terminus.
Of course the demise of all Newcastle suburban services might be a long term goal for those advocating truncation, but not willing to stick their necks out too far just yet.
The fictitious light rail would simply make the economic problem even worse because it would inflate the capital cost even further and would have a hopeless struggle to return adequate farebox revenue (even by the highly tolerant standards of public transport in Australia) over a 3km section in a city that has been compared to Beiruit on a bad Friday night.
One remembers the jaw-dropping statement of Bob Hawes that choosing a terminus/interchange location was just a matter of operational detail. Well it might be for HDC, which doesn't have any responsibility for the capital cost of the rail truncation proposal, or the effects on farebox revenue. Whatever happened to the days of government agencies that respected such things?