Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Premier not convinced on rail cut

Newcastle Greens
24 March 2010

Newcastle Greens today welcomed the NSW Premier's indication that she was not yet convinced of the need to cut the Newcastle rail line.

The Premier, Kristina Kenneally, made the comment in an interview on local ABC radio station 1233 this morning, prior to her meeting with the community-based pro-rail Save Our Rail group and the developer-backed anti-rail Fix Our City group.

"The community will be very pleased to hear that the Premier has not caved in to the powerful vested interests who have been directing vast resources to the anti-rail push, and we urge her to resolve this issue in a way that maintains and improves the current rail infrastructure and services to Newcastle station," Newcastle Greens rail spokesperson Councillor Michael Osborne said today.

"Ms Kenneally's chances of leading a Labor government to re-election next year will partly depend on the credibility she is able to muster between now and then on public transport, and on her government's ability to distance itself from the influence of developer interests.

"The Newcastle rail line issue has both of these elements, and provides an opportunity for the Premier to win back some of the public support she and the state Labor government have lost on such issues in the recent past," Clr Osborne said.

Referring to the Premier's comment during her 1233 interview that she believed there was a way of resolving the rail issue, Councillor Osborne urged her to look seriously at proposals advanced by the community to reintroduce safe, controlled pedestrian access at various points across the rail line, and to landscape the line to improve its appearance.

"These improvements can be done at a fraction of the estimated $650million cost of cutting the line," Clr Osborne said.

"Throughout this debate, the community (including The Greens) have demonstrated that the arguments advanced in favour of cutting the line are based on misinformation and dodgy figures," Clr Osborne said.

"No government that really cares about a sustainable future for our city could support cutting a rail line that would be covetted by any other city in the world, simply at the behest of vested interests.

"Any professional, objective analysis of the proposal to cut the Newcastle rail line will show that taking such a proposal to Canberra for federal revitalisation and infrastructure funding assistance would simply make Newcastle a laughing stock.

"Scarce revitalisation funding must be directed where it is really needed, and where it can do most good," Clr Osborne said. "To divert it into cutting rail infrastructure would be scandalous, and a sure sign of a government in policy and electoral free-fall.

"As Newcastle deals with the challenge of traffic congestion, peak oil and climate change, we will need our rail lines and services more than ever. The Premier should be looking at funding genuinely worthy transport projects, such as funding a safe, connected cycleway network in Newcastle and funding the proposed Glendale interchange.

"We congratulate the Premier for offering hope to the community that she might be prepared to put people before profits on the long-running question of the Newcastle rail line," Clr Osborne said.

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