Not end of line just yet

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.

To protect the transport lifeline for everyone without a car or licence or who simply prefers to travel by train.

As of Boxing Day this year, Upper Hunter City Rail will stop at Wickham and Sydney services at Broadmeadow.

“There is much conjecture as to whether Upper Hunter trains will actually ever get closer to Newcastle than Broadmeadow,” Denman, Aberdeen, Muswellbrook Scone Healthy Environment Group’s Wendy Wales said.

“Given the recent ICAC controversy about property developer and Lord Mayor of Newcastle Jeff McCloy funding election campaigns for a number of Newcastle Liberal MPs, the rally protestors felt justified in calling a halt to the destruction of the inner city heavy rail service and replaced by a vague covered outdoor replacement shed-as-terminus and promised light rail – till at least after an election.

“Apart from the proximity of the rail line to the harbor and city centre, the land under the rail has never been underground mined and so is capable of supporting high rise buildings.

“It is not surprising developers would try to secure it.

“For us in the Upper Hunter, whether we get to Hamilton and then have to get to Broadmeadow to get to Sydney, or whether we get to Broadmeadow and then have to catch a bus to Newcastle, there is a clear signal that our journey is going to take longer and cost more.”

Ms Wales said she did not think the Wickham Transport Social Impact Assessment addressed the needs of the people in the region.

“Consultation went no further than Newcastle and Maitland,” she told the Chronicle.

“The Social Impact Assessment identifies those disproportionately affected as with limited mobility (aged and disabled), large items (such as bicycles, surfboards and luggage), or otherwise encumbered (including people travelling with young children).

“This adverse impact is multiplied for those of us travelling longer journeys from Scone, Dungog, the Central Coast and Sydney.

“Increasing travel time makes journeys ridiculously long for those travelling from the Upper Hunter to Sydney.

“At the moment it takes three minutes to get from Broadmeadow to Hamilton by staying on the train.

“When travellers need to take a bus from one to the other it is surely going to add at least 25 minutes to their travel time each way, assuming they make their connection.

“With an early start it has been possible for Upper Hunter residents to use the train to have four effective hours in Sydney – arrive at Central 11.10am and depart 3.15pm to make it back to Muswellbrook by 7.30pm.

“This has been a valuable service and saves the expense and inconvenience of an overnight stay.

“Additional shuttle time added to the inevitable uncertainty of whether the train will run to schedule will make this journey quite stressful for those who can’t find an alternative.

“Community organisations such as Two More Trains for Singleton have been calling for an improved service to the Upper Hunter because we need a better, not diminished, service.

“The train is a lifeline and independence for young and old in the Upper Hunter.

“It enables us to travel by one mode to the beach, university, Newcastle TAFE and the city and is a short distance from many medical facilities.

“I therefore urge the government to take this opportunity to rethink and work on well-planned improvement to our public transport system.”

You can find out more about the proposed change by contacting Upper Hunter MP George Souris, visiting the Save Our Rail website and lodging your concerns with [email protected] by midnight (tonight).

Use the Wickham Transport Interchange REF as the subject.

SAVE OUR RAIL: Denman, Aberdeen, Muswellbrook Scone Healthy Environment Group’s Wendy Wales (second from right) and Bev Atkinson (right), from Scone, drum up some support in Muswellbrook.

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