An alliance of community groups, residents and students opposed to the privatisation and sale of Newcastle’s rail corridor will hold a rally at Civic Station this Sunday from 11am.
The University of Newcastle Student Union Association will participate in the rally which will take a broader stance than Save Our Rail’s insistence that inner city heavy rail remains all the way into Newcastle.
The alliance does not necessarily oppose the replacement of heavy rail with light rail, but is against any plans that would see the corridor fall into private hands.
Despite the factional differences, the protest incorporates and has the support of Save Our Rail.
Union president Clare Swan said the removal of the rail corridor would inhibit the revitalisation of the inner city with a UoN campus.
“Students need public transport, and they need it to be accessible and efficient,” Ms Swan said.
“We’re certainly not getting that with the closure of the rail line to Civic, right opposite the brand new NewSpace building.”
Greens Newcastle City councillor Therese Doyle shares the student union’s skepticism.
“There has been no community survey. There has been no credible cost benefit analysis, and there have been no traffic analyses of how trams, cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians will share Hunter or Scott Streets,” she said.
“We want some genuine revitalisation of our city and that includes keeping rail on the corridor.
“The current UrbanGrowth consultation is a farce.
“In fact, it does not even include transport options. The only options available are different intensities of development on our public rail corridor.”
The two Fishers and Shooters Party MPs will cast the critical votes when the matter appears before the upper house next week.
Save Our Rail campaigner Jan Davis said Hunter residents would need to fight to keep the public infrastructure.
“It’s been a sham from start to finish,” she said. “Whatever happens, we need the rail to stay in that corridor and we’re at the pointy end of the fight now.”
The state government closed the rail line last December, but a High Court ruling has meant it could not legally remove the rail without an act of parliament.
The lower house passed changes to the Transport Administration Act the government put forward in Parliament last month, but they still need the approval of the upper house.
Supporters of the government’s plan to replace heavy rail with light rail into Newcastle say the change will be key to the city’s revitalisation.
However the plan has drawn strong criticism from many commuters in the Hunter, including Maitland, who believe it will make public transport more difficult to use.