A newspaper’s job is to advocate for its readers when they need it most. The Singleton Argus, The Scone Advocate, Cessnock Advertiser, Muswellbrook Chronicle and Dungog Chronicle have pledged to stand with The Mercury to fight for the chance to vote on one of the region’s most crucial infrastructure decisions in recent memory.
The issue is one we will not ignore. If you want to have your say - use the #SaveHunterRail hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, share our posts and keep up to date with our newspapers.
Crakanthorp to front parliamentary inquiry: Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp will front a parliamentary committee on Friday to explain how he came to possess a confidential state government cabinet document related to the CBD rail cut.
Hawes declares interest: Hunter Development Corporation has given documents to a parliamentary committee that shows general manager Bob Hawes had declared his pecuniary interests regarding the Newcastle heavy rail corridor when he worked as a consultant for the government organisation.
ICAC drops Hawes case: The Independent Commission Against Corruption will not investigate allegations that one of the region’s senior bureaucrats acted corruptly in the decision to cut Newcastle’s heavy rail line and build a transport interchange at Wickham.
Stop politicking on rail’s future, says lobby group: A lobby group in favour of retaining the heavy rail line into Newcastle CBD has called for politicking over the issue to end. Keep the Hunter on Track spokesman David Blyth said that political games should stop so a modern transport system, based on evidence, could be delivered to the region.
Former MP can’t recall seeing cabinet light rail minute: Former Newcastle Liberal MP Tim Owen has insisted he cannot recall ever seeing a cabinet minute about Newcastle’s light rail that Labor claims was found in his old electorate office. But he has stopped short of ruling out that the confidential document could have been discovered there or that he could have seen it.
Public meeting over Newcastle heavy rail cut: Hundreds of Hunter residents are expected to attend a public meeting about the state government’s plans for the Newcastle heavy rail corridor tonight. The meeting, at Newcastle City Hall, will take place from 7pm. A new campaign to save the rail line, Keep the Hunter on Track, will also be launched at the meeting.
Fred Nile lets fly at Premier: Arrogance over the Newcastle rail issue could cost the Baird government seats during next month’s election, Christian Democrat MLC Reverend Fred Nile says.
Reality behind Labor's rail promise: Labor has been unable to identified when it will be too late to save the Newcastle train line. During a visit to Maitland yesterday, new state Opposition Leader Luke Foley reiterated Labor’s commitment to re-establish heavy rail services into the Newcastle CBD if elected to government in March. But, given work to remove electric train wires along the rail corridor from Wickham to Newcastle has begun, he could not say when it would be too late to reverse the damage.
Hamilton railway station reopens to Maitland passengers: Hamilton Station reopened to Maitland rail passengers yesterday and will serve as a temporary interchange under the Wickham truncation plans. Maitland trains have been diverted to Broadmeadow since Boxing Day.People alighting at Hamilton will still need to use a shuttle bus to complete their journey into the Newcastle CBD.
Hunter rail lobby takes heart from Fremantle: The fight will go on to restore heavy rail services into Newcastle for Maitland commuters even if, like in Fremantle, it takes years. Hunter Concerned Citizens members said they took heart from the West Australian city’s three-decade battle to preserve its Perth services. The service was cut in 1979 and restored in 1983, but was only truly safeguarded in 2012 when state and federal governments announced a tunnel to sink the line to open up the CBD above.
Court to decide on fate of Newcastle rail line | VIDEO: The fate of the Hunter rail line hangs on a legal technicality. In a twist that no one saw coming, Hunter Development Corporation, which answers to the state government, is attempting to forcibly acquire the Newcastle rail corridor – from the state government. Under the Transportation Act the government cannot rip up the rail infrastructure or dispose of the land without an Act of Parliament, which is where HDC comes in. Rail Corp started transferring ownership of overhead wiring and boom gates to HDC on December 19 and was expected to complete the process on Boxing Day.
Kick Libs out if they cut the rail line, says leading resident: Well-respected Maitland community member Chris Welbourne has called on voters to punish the state government at the March polls if it cuts the rail line on Boxing Day. Mr Welbourne, who was the district schools inspector for 12 years and principal of Maitland Grossmann High School, said Maitland MP Robyn Parker had failed the city in negotiations to save the rail despite her best intentions.
Rail stoush to become legal battle: The state government could be served a Supreme Court injunction tomorrow to stop the Boxing Day rail line truncation. Save Our Rail launched the injunction application on Friday on the grounds that the government does not have an Act of Parliament to support the rail line cut.
Cessnock commuters weigh in to rail debate: Weston resident Peter Richardson was among a handful of Cessnock residents who took a symbolic last train ride to Newcastle station on Friday. Once a month he catches a bus from Cessnock to Maitland station to ride the train into the beaches near Newcastle station for some leisure and to access services.
Report raises serious doubts over Newcastle rail truncation process: Pressure is mounting on the state government to delay the Boxing Day truncation of the Hunter rail line until it can clearly demonstrate the benefit of a Wickham interchange. The parliamentary inquiry into Hunter planning decisions tabled its interim report on Thursday. The report asked that the government take no steps to remove the rail infrastructure until a peer-reviewed report thoroughly considered the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the alternative options.
Crucial Newcastle rail report out today: The hopes of Maitland rail passengers hinge on an interim report on Newcastle planning processes that State Parliament will table this morning. The Wickham rail line truncation is among the planning processes under review. The report is expected to call on the government to delay plans to cut the line on Boxing Day, a decision that has raised legal questions.
Robertson wants Maitland voters to have say on railway: Opposition Leader John Robertson wants Maitland voters to have their say on the Newcastle rail cut at the polls in March. Mr Robertson said he was buoyed by Sunday’s rally when he spoke to the Mercury yesterday.
Rail study draws in HSC student: When Hannah Hill first looked into the Newcastle railway truncation it was simply part of her HSC studies. A year on and the 18-year-old marched side-by-side with thousands of Maitland, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle residents on Sunday to protest the state government’s determination to cut the rail line at Wickham on Boxing Day.
OPINION: Premier, it’s not too late to listen to voice of people on railway: The simplest message Premier Mike Baird can take from yesterday’s impressive public showing against plans to cut the Newcastle railway line is to shelve any plans to do so until after the election. If Mr Baird still thinks the plan makes good sense and still holds a majority to form government, he can proceed post-March, 2015.
Three thousand march to save Newcastle rail line: Thousands of people have marched on Civic Park to protest the truncation of the Newcastle rail line. Residents from Maitland and the Upper Hunter joined others from Lake Macquarie and Newcastle at the Rally for the Rail that began at Pacific Park on Sunday morning.
Labor questions legality of rail cut: Opposition Leader John Robertson believes the state government has no legal basis for truncating the Newcastle rail line on Boxing Day. Labor has called on Premier Mike Baird to release legal advice justifying the government’s stance that it has the authority to close the line without the need for an Act of Parliament.
Strong Maitland contingent expected at rail rally: Maitland rail users are expected to have a loud voice at a Newcastle rally on Sunday designed to stop the Wickham truncation. Rally for the Rail will start at Pacific Park on the Newcastle Foreshore and follow a police escort to Civic Park, where participants will hear from guest speakers.
Newcastle City Council changes track: Newcastle City Council has formally changed its stance on the planned CBD rail project and will send an ‘‘urgent letter’’ to premier Mike Baird to let him know.
Official advised of Hawes' Wickham property: The head of the Department of Planning now says she was told of Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes’ Wickham property holdings before attending her first HDC board meeting during which Mr Hawes briefed her on city rail changes.
Hawes' interests never fully disclosed to HDC board: Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes has never directly declared a conflict of interest about his Newcastle property holdings at an HDC board meeting, contrary to HDC evidence at the parliamentary inquiry into Newcastle planning issues.
Wickham rail truncation reaffirmed: Despite growing calls to delay work on the Wickham rail truncation the Premier Mike Baird used his visit to Newcastle on Thursday to reaffirm the government’s commitment to light rail. Mr Baird met with community groups opposed to the truncation and stakeholders in favour of the freeing up the land on Thursday morning.
Railway supporters in minority at pro-development meeting with Premier, Minister: Rail supporters were outnumbered one to five by people in support of truncating the Hunter line at Wickham at a meeting with the Premier Mike Baird on Thursday in Newcastle. Save Our Rail and the Hunter Environment Lobby members were among the steadfast minority to urge Mr Baird and the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian to delay work until after the March election.
Labor rides trains to save the rail: Labor candidate for Maitland Jenny Aitchison and Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp had slammed the government yesterday for failing commuters, with no timetable or indication of how the proposed bus services would cope with major events.
Hunter Environment Lobby hopes to delay rail cut: The Hunter Environment Lobby will join Save Our Rail at Thursday’s meeting with the Premier Mike Baird. They are among the community groups that will sit down with stakeholders at the Honeysuckle meeting to discuss Newcastle’s future, but the rail proponents will push for a stay of execution.
Premier agrees to talks with Save Our Rail | POLL: Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Hunter Gladys Berejiklian won’t visit Maitland this week but in a backflip will meet with Save Our Rail on Thursday. Save Our Rail had been excluded from a roundtable discussion in Newcastle with other stakeholders and community groups until the Mercury questioned the apparent snub.
Union disputes $200k/week rail tunnel delay: A senior Hunter union official has dismissed the state government’s claim that it would cost $220,000 a week to delay the Newcastle heavy rail cut until after the March election. There have been calls from the community, Labor and the Greens for the government to delay the Boxing Day start work date.
Report due before Christmas: Greens MP David Shoebridge wants the community to see the interim report into the rail line truncation sooner rather than later. Mr Shoebridge instigated the parliamentary inquiry into the heavy rail cut at Wickham, the committee has promised to release the interim report before Christmas.
Trades Hall draws up battle plan to halt rail cut: The Hunter’s peak union body wants Maitland and the greater Hunter to be considered more in the rail cut debate and has threatened to take action if the government does not postpone the Boxing Day start-work date. Newcastle Trades Hall Council representatives have asked to meet with Premier Mike Baird when he is in the Hunter next week to ask him to delay the rail truncation.
Hawe's firm prepared rail cut report: Bob Hawes was one of two directors of a company in 2009 that Hunter Development Corporation paid almost $50,000 to prepare a report for the state government, which recommended the removal of the Newcastle heavy rail line at Wickham.
Hospital, rail cut papers remain secret: The state government says it has complied with a parliamentary motion calling for the release of documents related to two major Hunter projects. Motions from Labor for the release of documents related to the funding model of the Lower Hunter hospital at Metford, and from the Greens, calling for the cost benefit analysis and scoping study of the Newcastle rail cut, have not yielded the desired results for the opposition parties.
Greens call for HDC chief's resignation: The debate over the Newcastle rail cut has intensified, with the Greens calling for the resignation of a public servant and the NSW government refusing to release crucial documents. The Greens have demanded to know when the government will ask for the resignation of Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes, who faces a conflict of interest allegation over the government’s decision to cut Newcastle’s heavy rail line.
$30m rail conflict for Hawes: An application has been approved to build a block of units worth about $60 million on land near the Wickham rail corridor, part-owned by Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes. Newcastle City Council received the DA to build the nine-storey unit block in Beresford Street in 2009. The street runs parallel to the rail line near the future location of the multi-million dollar Wickham Transport Interchange.
HDC chief denies conflict of interest in rail cut decision: The head of a state government agency advocating the removal of Newcastle rail line has denied having a conflict of interest, despite telling a parliamentary inquiry that he partially owns properties near the future Wickham transport interchange.
Rail survey flawed, says Cross: Advocates for retaining the train line between Wickham and Newcastle have had their say to the committee set up to investigate recent planning decisions in the Hunter. The rail cut was one of the issues discussed when Christian Democrat Fred Nile and his multi-party committee held a public hearing in Newcastle on Friday.
Newcastle rail inquiry kicks off today | POLL: Now is the time for transparency to hit centre stage regarding the Newcastle rail truncation. All eyes will be on the Hunter today as Reverend Fred Nile rolls into Newcastle with his multi-party committee that is investigating recent planning decisions in the region. One of the issues on the agenda today, which is the first of three hearing days, is the government’s plan to cut the Newcastle rail line at Wickham station.
Rail consultation with Maitland after decision: The state government only came to Maitland for public consultation about its plan to cut Newcastle rail line after the decision had been made, according to its submission to a parliamentary committee investigating planning in the Hunter.
Piper's rail bill to go before State Parliament: A bill designed to protect Newcastle’s inner city rail corridor will go before State Parliament on Thursday. Independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper will raise the motion, which is designed to make sure the land is used for open recreational space after the tracks are removed. It would stop residential and commercial development along the inner city rail corridor, but would allow small-scale buildings such as kiosks and cafes.
Barr says peak-hour bus schedule rubbish: Cessnock MP Clayton Barr says Maitland and Cessnock residents will be worse-off under the new bus network that will replace trains in Newcastle CBD from Boxing Day. He said the state government’s claim that buses would take 25 minutes to get from Newcastle to Hamilton during peak travel times to allow commuters to board a train out of the city was rubbish.
Unavoidable change to buses: While the new Hamilton bus exchange is an interim measure for commuters after the rail line is cut at Wickham, there will be another interim measure put in place for the first 10 days after the line closes. Transport for NSW said making train commuters change to buses at Broadmeadow from Boxing Day to January 5 was unavoidable.
Premier refuses to rule out development of rail corridor: Premier Mike Baird has refused to rule out the possible development of the Newcastle rail corridor after the train line is removed. The opposition asked Mr Baird in parliament this week for an assurance that rail corridor land in Newcastle would not be leased or sold for development after Boxing Day. The Premier did not rule out the possibility – but instead slammed Labor’s plan for Newcastle.
Less rail means more traffic: More people will choose their cars over public transport if Newcastle rail line is cut, which could affect the Hunter’s already congested roads, the state opposition says.
Report on rail not balanced: Residents fighting to save the Newcastle train line say a report advocating that the track be cut at Wickham was not balanced because it did not identify positive aspects of retaining the infrastructure. Save Our Rail is preparing a submission for the parliamentary select committee that will investigate the state government’s planning decisions, after allegations of corruption against a number of Hunter MPs surfaced recently.
No delay for rail cut plan: The fight to delay plans to cut Newcastle train line will ramp up after news that the state government’s preparations to close the line on Boxing Day have continued this week. Surveying work began along the Newcastle rail corridor yesterday, which indicated that pleas for the government to take the rail issue to the March election have been ignored.
Maitland forgotten in rail cut plan: The state government will show it's lack of concern for the people of Maitland if it tears up the train line into Newcastle before the March election, Opposition Leader John Robertson says. The government will close the rail line between Wickham and Newcastle stations from Boxing Day so work can begin to permanently remove the infrastructure. Mr Robertson renewed calls this week to postpone work until after the March election and labelled the plan as vandalism.
Cutting the rail line: hidden cost for commuters: East Maitland rail commuter Ben Horn urged his fellow train passengers to step up protests against the truncation of the Newcastle rail line before it’s too late. Mr Horn has commuted five days a week for the past 18 months and will face additional costs if he cannot catch a train to his workplace in Newcastle CBD.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Removal of heavy rail makes no sense: The present service by heavy rail to Newcastle station should be retained. It makes no sense to remove it. From a transport perspective it seems to me there has been no logical argument put forward for the removal of this asset.
Hope for rail line: A parliamentary committee will investigate planning decisions in Newcastle, including the rail cut, if Greens MLC David Shoebridge gets his way. He believes he will have a majority when he puts a motion to Parliament this week to establish a select committee to investigate how recent planning decisions have been made in the Hunter.
Coaltion urged to stop Newcastle rail cut: A Bellbird man has urged the Coalition state government to delay the Newcastle rail line closure until after the March election. In a letter to the Mercury, Peter Swinbourne, a self-described pro-conservative voter, wrote that he was extremely disappointed with the decision to cut the line between Wickham and Newcastle station.
Rail travel problems taste of what's to come: Commuters from the greater Hunter have had a taste of public transport difficulties ahead of the planned closure of Newcastle rail line. People travelling from Maitland, Dungog and the upper reaches of the Hunter had to contend with scheduled track work on the Newcastle line last weekend.
Hunter commuters miss out: Commuters from the greater Hunter have had a taste of public transport difficulties ahead of the planned closure of Newcastle rail line. People travelling from Maitland, Dungog and the upper reaches of the Hunter had to contend with scheduled track works on the Newcastle line last weekend. Bev Atkinson said the journey from Scone to Newcastle, usually a two-hour commute, took more than 3.5 hours.
Rail cut will disadvantage elderly and young in Hunter towns: Cutting Newcastle rail line will disadvantage elderly and young people who live in regional parts of the Hunter, a Dungog resident says. Joan Dawson, a member of Save Our Rail, the organisation working to have the rail decision overturned, said the rail cut would affect the people who relied on public transport most.
Light rail won't eventuate, says resident: A Cessnock man says he doubts a light rail line into Newcastle will ever eventuate. In a letter to the Mercury, Bruce Matthews argued there were no concrete plans for transport into the city, aside from a commitment from the state government to close the train line permanently from Boxing Day.
Rally gets on board to save link: Maitland residents opposing the truncation of the Newcastle rail line gathered at Civic Park for a rally calling for better planning across the Hunter. Local commuters unhappy with plans to cut the rail line short of the city centre joined about 400 people on Saturday for the Hunter Deserves Better Rally.
Former Hunter resident goes in to bat for Newcastle rail line: The Hunter should take a leaf out of London’s book when it comes to public transport. That’s what a former Hunter resident living in the United Kingdom thinks. Paul Newman has been following the public debate on the plan to remove Newcastle rail line. He wrote to the Mercury this week to put the debate into an international context.
Save direct rail link: Letter to the editor: Congratulations to the Singleton Argus and other regional Fairfax newspapers for coming out strongly against the hare-brained NSW Government plan to cut the direct rail link to Newcastle CBD in December, 2014. Governments all over the globe are intent on improving public transport, however, our State government is planning a great leap backwards by severing the heavy rail line at Wickham, and then spending well over $400 million to replace it with light rail. That's roughly how much the Government collects in coal royalties from Singleton in a whole year!
Rally tells government to listen: Maitland people are urged to attend a rally in Newcastle on Saturday calling on state and local governments to give citizens a better hearing. One of the issues of concern is the removal of the heavy rail from Wickham to Newcastle.
Keep the rail line ... it’s progress: Labor candidate for Maitland Jenny Aitchison has been an outspoken advocate for not truncating the Newcastle rail line, believing it will only make things harder for people in the Hunter Valley. Here, she gives her reasons why.
Rail cut spells the end of beach trips: Removing Newcastle rail line could spell the end of trips to the beach for one Thornton teenager and her friends. In a letter to the Mercury, 17-year-old Emma Prior said the plan to close the line between Wickham and Newcastle stations from Boxing Day could cost teenagers from the greater Hunter their social lives.
It would especially affect those without a driver’s licence or vehicle.
MUSWELLBROOK residents stood united alongside locals from Scone, Aberdeen and Denman at the Save Our Rail rally in Newcastle last week. And, while they joined forces from different parts of the Hunter, they all shared the same goal.
Increased train services needed, not rail cut, says resident: The government should increase rail services into Newcastle not remove the line, a young Maitland resident says. Josephine Cross, 20, catches the train to work in the CBD five days a week and often travels by rail from the city to the University of Newcastle to study after work. Being a working student trying to save money, she has decided to rely on public transport and does not own a car.
Call for Maitland MP to stand ground on rail: A Mercury reader has called on Maitland MP Robyn Parker to speak out in support of retaining the rail line into Newcastle. Rick Banyard is one of the many Hunter residents to contact the Mercury recently out of concern about the plan to remove the heavy rail line between Wickham and Newcastle stations.
Idea to put rail line underground dates back to 1995: The mayor of Maitland advocated putting the train line between Wickham and Newcastle underground when he was a state MP almost 20 years ago. But the idea that Cr Peter Blackmore supported when he was member for Maitland in 1995 was rejected, with the government deciding to remove the line in 2012.
Rail cut worse for country people, says Dungog resident: The state of the region’s roads has made plans to cut Newcastle rail line worse for residents of the greater Hunter, a Dungog man says. Simon Smith, who has lived in the Hunter all his life, said the decision to cut the line into Newcastle CBD would force many residents back on the road. But Mr Smith said Dungog's roads were among the worst in the state.
Newcastle rail cut pain for uni students: By the time the University of Newcastle builds its proposed city-centre campus in the Civic precinct, the state government will have removed the heavy rail line between Wickham and Newcastle. Students who want to catch a train to university from outside the city, in places like Maitland and the wider Hunter, will have to change to a bus, light rail or walk to their place of study when they reach Wickham.
It’s time to stand up and stop plans to cut rail line: Commuters from the wider Hunter are getting the raw end of the deal with plans to cut the rail line into Newcastle CBD. Considering the level of discontent about the decision across the region, The Mercury thinks the government should postpone work until after the March election so Hunter residents can make their feelings known at the ballot box.
Dungog gets on board to save our rail: The Dungog Chronicle has joined with its fellow Fairfax Media publications the Maitland Mercury, Singleton Argus, Scone Advocate, Cessnock Advertiser and Muswellbrook Chronicle to fight for the chance to vote on one of the region’s most crucial infrastructure decisions in recent memory.
Labor joins Maitland's voice to halt rail cut: The call to delay the truncation of Newcastle rail line has become louder after NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson joined a growing chorus of questions about whether there was corruption involved in the government’s decision.
They can’t give answers: Maitland commuter: Removal of the heavy rail line into Newcastle CBD will spell the end of a weekly journey from Maitland to Newcastle for Tenambit resident Lyn Shafer.
200 march in Maitland rail protest: Anger over plans to cut the heavy rail line into Newcastle have ramped up in Maitland. More than 200 protesters marched from Maitland train station to Maitland MP Robyn Parker’s electorate office yesterday, chanting “save our rail to Newcastle”.
Rally to protest Hunter rail line closure: A rally will be held at Maitland Railway Station on Thursday to protest the cutting of the Newcastle railway line. The Hunter’s direct rail connection into Newcastle will cease on Christmas Day.
ICAC inquiry before rail removal - Greens: The Greens want the truncation of Newcastle rail line put on hold until developers have been cleared of involvement in the decision.