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PORT Stephens MP Craig Baumann says there is a clear lack of communication between governments over coal rail proposals at Hexham that threaten the much-needed Fassifern-to-Hexham rail bypass.
Mr Baumann said he raised the problem yesterday with Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, who would be in Newcastle on Friday, April 13, for a regional forum on long-term transport planning.
Federal Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson said it would take an engineer to say whether the Hexham plan was a barrier but she would urge the Gillard government to do the necessary studies to settle on a route.
As the Newcastle Herald reported yesterday, a federal government agency is working on plans to build a series of coal rail sidings on a section of the main northern line previously identified as a likely exit point for the freight rail bypass.
A Fassifern-to-Hexham bypass would avoid a slow section of track following the western shore of Lake Macquarie and remove coal and general freight trains from the Adamstown and Clyde Street level crossings.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), which is planning the Hexham sidings, says no government agency raised the freight bypass in early consultation over the project.
But the rail activist who raised the issue with the Herald, Darrell Harris, said the conflict should have been obvious to anyone remotely familiar with rail planning.
Mr Baumann said ‘‘no one twigged to’’ the problem until yesterday’s Herald article.
‘‘I will be working with my colleagues and the minister to get some planning done in conjunction with Canberra on a proper corridor for the bypass,’’ Mr Baumann said.
‘‘I’m not saying there is funding available – a project that size will require federal money – but Adamstown is a big problem and you shouldn’t have freight trains going through residential areas at five miles an hour.’’
Ms Grierson said the problem with the Fassifern-to-Hexham bypass was it had been talked about for years with nothing concrete done.
‘‘The separation of coal trains from passenger trains is essential if we are going to manage the doubling of coal exports,’’ she said.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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