THIS newspaper, like many Hunter organisations and people with a stake in the future of Newcastle, spent much time and energy over a long period trying to get the NSW government to take positive action on the city’s transport system.
Now the Coalition has had the courage to make a decision on the thorny subject of the heavy rail line, it might seem churlish to find fault with its approach.
But aspects of the decision – or, more precisely, its implications – have done little to engender confidence in the process that brought it into being.
When the government announced that the rail line would be trimmed west of Stewart Avenue and a new city terminus built there, many hoped the long-running and bitter debate would be over and the city could get on with the challenges of urban renewal.
That could have been the case if the new station plan was presented as a fully developed proposal, with answers available to the most obvious questions likely to emerge.
Instead, issues unanticipated by many have been emerging in dribs and drabs, with no firm answers apparently available.
It has been suggested, for example, that Sydney trains might have to terminate at Broadmeadow under the new arrangements, in order to avoid the potentially greater inconvenience of permanently closed level crossings at Beaumont Street, Hamilton, and Railway Street, Wickham.
The Herald has reported concerns that the new Wickham terminus might not suit the eight-car trains usually used on the intercity run, and issues relating to extra trains having to run back to Broadmeadow for stabling.
Stopping Sydney rail services at Broadmeadow avoids these issues, but forces Maitland line passengers to catch another train, between Hamilton and Broadmeadow, to reach the Sydney service.
It seems apparent from these revelations that the government decision, much as it was widely welcomed, wasn’t backed with especially comprehensive planning or research.
A new eight-member ‘‘co-ordination and delivery group’’ – with some Hunter members – has been assembled and given a budget of $5million to iron out the various wrinkles in the Wickham terminus plan by the end of the year.
Hunter people will be hoping this group can find good solutions to the problems.
But many will wonder why the government, with the expertise of all its planning and transport authorities at its disposal, hadn’t sorted the issues out before it made its announcement.