Newcastle Rail Line

On Boxing Day 2014, work will commence on the removal of the rail line between Wickham and Newcastle and the start of a new chapter in the evolution of Newcastle.

Whilst the debate has centred around “keep or remove” for many years, the decision to commence removal put an end to that.

For mine, I think many people were anti-removal on the basis that they were more concerned about what would happen to the land once the rail line was gone.  The corridor is a substantial piece of land that is well located to the foreshore and the city centre.

If there could be guarantees that this would remain public land and that part would be used for public transport, the level of objection would fall.

Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, introduced a private members bill into State Parliament that would have seen the corridor stay as public land with a mix of public uses.  The bill did not gain the support of either major party.

It was unsurprising, given the government need for cash, to hear the NSW Premier announce that it would be selling off parts of the rail corridor for redevelopment.

The concern for Newcastle will be what gets sold, how it gets sold, where the money goes, who makes the planning controls and who is the decision-making body for any development applications.

At this stage, the government is saying that Newcastle City Council would determine such applications.

The whole plan seems like a moveable feast, the uncertainty leading to ongoing frustration in the community.

Whether you are for or against the removal of the rail line, this is a once in a generation opportunity for this city.  Newcastle deserves better.  It deserves certainty around a sustainable and equitable plan for the corridor.  It does not deserve for this land to be seen as cash for NSW Treasury coffers.  As a minimum, 75% of all proceeds from the sale of land should be revisited in Newcastle.