Community takes fight for rail to the Supreme Court
Rail corridor between Glenfield and Macarthur earmarked for medium density
Rail Trail boost to tourism - and local economy
Newcastle rail case may be long wait
Save Our Rail questions semantics argument over rail line cut
North West Rail Link corridor to extend through to Marsden Park
Camurra West to Weemelah Line Booked Out of Use
Rail Trail full steam ahead
John Holland Commissions Electronic Train Orders
Closure of Newcastle rail stations not technically a closure of whole line, State Government lawyer says
PROVISION of community infrastructure is rightly a focus for all three levels of government but often attention is given to projects that are not priorities.
It is time to think about the long-term transport needs for the wider Hunter Region, not just those for inner-city Newcastle.
A vast amount of money continues to be directed to major road upgrades that channel more cars and trucks into our urban areas, including the Hunter Expressway, Newcastle Inner City Bypass and Golden Highway upgrades.
Proposals are now on exhibition for a token inner-city light rail project that will reduce public transport access rather than increase it.
What is missing is a program for improving transport connectivity throughout the region as a whole.
As spending on roads increases, traffic congestion continues to worsen, drivers get more frustrated, overall accessibility declines and the real, consequential cost of road transport skyrockets. A long-awaited Hunter Regional Transport Plan has failed to materialise.
Contrast the immense investment in major roads with infrastructure spending on the rail system.
Around the world, rail provides the transport backbone that underpins accessibility between and within cities. It is the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable form of transport over medium and long distances.
Modest investment in the rail system in the Hunter Region has been made to improve rail track capacity for freight transport, primarily coal.
Improvements to rail include the recent completion of an additional track between Singleton and Maitland and signalling upgrades to improve the flexibility of train movements.
Adequate rail track capacity exists to service the growing and traffic-congested urban areas of Maitland and Singleton.
However, it appears that the state government is unable to provide more frequent passenger train services over this route. This is not because of any shortage of carriages or drivers. It is because the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which is owned by the federal government, refuses to provide access to the publicly owned track.
Rail services are the "freeways" of the transport network. It is time to give rail priority in future planning and investment in the region.
Rail patronage has significantly increased in recent years.
This is not surprising as it provides a reliable alternative to road for longer journeys, lessens our vulnerability to rising fuel prices, and significantly reduces the need for a second family car.
It is particularly important for almost half of the population that does not have ready access to a car, or does not have a driver's licence, including students, young people, the aged and disabled.
The rail system is also very safe.
In the Upper Hunter, even with significant rail track improvements, passenger trains are denied access to publicly owned track.
Why is the Australian Rail Track Corporation denying access to allow more passenger train services needed by the community? Who is determining regional transport priorities, and in whose interest are infrastructure investment decisions being made?
A key priority is to align land use with passenger rail access.
The recent decision to provide a new hospital at Maitland within potential walking distance of a train station is welcome. On the other hand, approval of the new Huntlee town for 25,000 future residents near Branxton will not provide connectivity to passenger rail despite being only a short distance from Branxton station.
Reasonable proposals by the Two More Trains for Singleton group for long-term improvements to passenger rail services to Singleton and the Upper Hunter should be supported. These include:
■ Two additional daytime rail services between Singleton and Newcastle in the short term.
■ A long-term objective of a two-hourly daytime rail service between Singleton and Newcastle on weekdays; four-hourly on weekends.
■ A feasibility study for the Hunter LinkRail proposal for a new rail link using existing rail corridors between Maitland, Kurri Kurri and Glendale to link to a future east coast high-speed rail link.
The region needs to use existing infrastructure investment in the rail system more effectively to support current and future needs.
It is time for transport and accessibility priorities to be considered before knee-jerk projects that contribute to increasingly expensive and inefficient road transport.
We can start by effectively using existing infrastructure, rather than building poorly conceived projects with little benefit to the region.
Martin Fallding is a strategic land use planner living and working in the Hunter who supports the Two More Trains for Singleton group.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
About this website
Railpage version 3.10.0.0037
All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all the rest is © 2003-2021 Interactive Omnimedia Pty Ltd.
You can syndicate our news using one of the RSS feeds.