Rail argument has gone on for decades

THE political arguments over whether to remove or keep heavy rail services into Newcastle railway station have barely changed in more than two decades, records show.

Former premier and Infrastructure NSW chairman Nick Greiner reflected this week on his own government’s proposal for a Civic terminus, before issuing some indirect advice to the current Premier Barry O’Farrell about resolving the saga.

‘‘Twenty-five years ago, [Nationals deputy premier] Wal Murray and I thought that the answer to revitalising downtown Newcastle was to get rid of the rail line,’’ Mr Greiner said.

‘‘Wal Murray and I were right in 1989 when we started Honeysuckle and I notice nothing’s happened [since].

‘‘... Just take my word for it, if you really want to fix the CBD, which you ought to because it’s the heart and soul, then you can’t do it with the rail line there.’’

Mr Greiner said the line was ‘‘uneconomic’’ and ‘‘it is totally disruptive of any long-term vision for the Newcastle CBD’’.

Newcastle Herald reports and State Parliament’s Hansard show the arguments then over heavy rail were much the same as today.

A joint government and city council team, headed by consultants Travers Morgan, led to a recommendation a new terminus and bus-rail interchange at Civic would provide the best results for the city.

‘‘We pay taxes so that some uneconomic things can be run,’’ John Price, MLA for Waratah (later Maitland MP), was quoted as saying in the Herald in June 1990, when Labor and Democrat members of the upper house threatened to block any proposals from the Greiner government to sell the rail corridor land.

The government told Parliament in September 1990: ‘‘One of the considerations prompting the study by consultants was the desirability of improving the integration of the CBD with the Harbour foreshores and any decisions on the study finding will take appropriate account of this issue.’’

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