Future of Newcastle rail line still in doubt

STILL FIGHTING:  Save Our Rail protesters outside State Parliament yesterday.
STILL FIGHTING: Save Our Rail protesters outside State Parliament yesterday.

The state government may not have secured the support of two upper house MPs who will hold the balance of power in a crucial vote on the future of Newcastle’s heavy rail line. 

Shooters and Fishers members Robert Brown and Robert Borsak are likely to hold the key votes proposed changes to the Transport Administration Act, which would allow the government to legally rip up heavy rail infrastructure in Newcastle after a 10 month delay.

The vote had been expected to take place on Tuesday, but did not eventuate.

It has fuelled speculation from anti-truncation lobbyists that the government had not secured support from Mr 

Brown and Mr Borsak as of Tuesday. 

In an email to a member of the public sent on Monday, Mr Brown wrote that he and Mr Borsak had made a deal to support the government’s light rail proposal for Newcastle as long as the new transport network ran along the heavy rail corridor – not down Hunter Street. 

But the government has since backed an alternative route through Newcastle CBD.

The truncation is part of the government’s plan to revitalise Newcastle, but critics say it will make public transport into the city more difficult for commuters from Maitland and the greater Hunter.

“We think the Shooters and Fishers appear not to be locked into approving the bill,” Save Our Rail vice-president Kim Cross said. 

“Otherwise it would have been debated today [Tuesday] in the Legislative Assembly to be sent up to the Legislative Council [on Wednesday].”

Save Our Rail also held a rally outside Parliament House in Sydney on Tuesday to protest against the rail cut.

There have been moves in recent days to demonstrate to Mr Brown and Mr Borsak that the rail cut would significantly affect people in regional parts of the Hunter, including Maitland.