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Arising from the community in the early 1992 Save Our Rail was led to victory by Margaret Henry when the Carr Government, in about 1995, overturned Greiner’s plans for rail removal.
The group reconvened in 2002 when transport minister Costa revealed similar intentions.
SOR has not based objections on whether they “liked” trains, or on personal inconvenience, nor were they aiming to obstruct progress; quite the opposite. We believe that the City of Newcastle had an asset in direct rail services to Newcastle Station, that removal would exacerbate city decline, and that Hunter Region communities need direct rail transport to their major city for work, educational opportunities and cultural pursuits.
I had a personal concern with family members unable to use bus transport for medical reasons. However, influenced by a strong mother, I advocate for social justice and I am convinced rail is essential for the welfare of the city and region.
SOR undertook extensive research to reach a group position.
Some documents studied were:
Save Our Rail worked with community groups, including ECCHO ( Environment & Community Coalition of Hunter Organisations) and were invited by Hunter Business Chamber to join with council representatives, the Newcastle Alliance and Newcastle Trades Hall Council to formulate submissions to the 2007 Lower Hunter Strategy.
In 2008 SOR prepared its major proposal based on community input and our research: NEWCASTLE -Towards a Sustainable and Vibrant City - A Proposal for CBD Integration. This progressive proposal advanced creative suggestions for access across the rail line, including a raised rail section like Vancouver’s Sky Train (they are now doing this in north western Sydney!) We promoted improved station access, full use of Newcastle Station, landscaping, ideas to increase patronage, Park and Ride facilities and a new station, Harbourlink, near Hunter Street Mall. We still consider this proposal to be a great way forward for Newcastle.
The 2010 SOR proposal, Western Transport Initiativ” ( Westrans), suggests light rail cars to increase frequency and run on unused lines from Waratah to Glendale, linking educational institutions. Express buses would run from outer areas into Newcastle, and a freight line west of Newcastle would eliminate freight trains at urban crossings.
If the above proposals had been adopted Newcastle would have gained massively with improved transport frequency and access, city enhancement, increased tourism and a fully utilised Newcastle Station bringing in revenue.
Instead we have a failing city centre, increased bus emissions and traffic chaos, regional towns disconnected, late angry commuters and disabled people grounded. This whole developer-based program is wasting vast amounts of public money, is not “revitalising Newcastle” and a marvellous heritage icon, Newcastle Station, which should be treasured, lies unused and rotting.
Joan Dawson President, Save Our Rail NSW Inc
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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