AN end to the ubiquitous Newcastle rail line debate, the need for a freight bypass of the city and better integration of bus and rail services were community priorities raised with NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian yesterday.
Ms Berejiklian and her top transport bureaucrats visited the city to hear from residents, transport operators, Save Our Rail members and civic and business leaders about their concerns at a forum, one of 14 being held as part of work on a new 20-year transport masterplan for the state.
The Hunter will be included in the plan, but a detailed regional transport blueprint will be drawn up after the state document is produced.
Participants at Newcastle City Hall were divided into groups and asked to name their top three priorities.
Repeat mentions were made of the need for a freight bypass of inner city Newcastle, more cycling paths, a local Hunter transport authority, and integrating more frequent bus and rail services.
The fate of the inner city rail line was raised, with some calling for it to be retained, and others for any decision to be made.
Ms Berejiklian, who caught the train from Sydney yesterday, steered clear of the rail line when responding at the forum to the issues raised.
In a statement later, she said it was ‘‘clear that the future of the rail line into Newcastle is an issue that generates community interest’’.
‘‘The government believes it is an issue that needs to be considered as part of a broader examination of the CBD and its future, ‘‘ she said.
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure is looking at land use planning proposals for the Newcastle city centre.
Newcastle MP Tim Owen is continuing to push for the earlier termination of heavy rail services and light rail.
He has the backing of the ‘‘coastal liberals’’ – Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell, Swansea MP Garry Edwards, Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann, and that of Minister for the Hunter Mike Gallacher.
However, Maitland MP Robyn Parker and Upper Hunter MP George Souris, both also ministers, remain against changes they say will impact on commuters.
A draft of the transport masterplan is due to be unveiled mid-year.