Community anger over rail shows

THE decision to cut Newcastle’s rail line was officially ‘‘not up for discussion’’ but it still managed to dominate debate at two community meetings held on Wednesday to discuss the state government’s urban renewal plans.

The Department of Planning’s director of community and stakeholder engagement, Liam McKay, told about 200 people at the first City Hall meeting that the government’s rail plan was definitive.

‘‘That decision has been made by cabinet,’’ Mr McKay said.

The crowd occasionally grew angry as public questions and statements about the rail plan gathered steam – 11 of the first 15 members of the public to speak made reference to the taboo topic. One of the non-rail questions was about the Laman Street figs.

Hunter Development Corporation chief executive Bob Hawes described plans to remove the rail line and transition passengers to buses as the ‘‘centrepiece’’ of the urban renewal strategy.

Mr Hawes also stressed that the government’s intention was to keep the rail corridor in public ownership.

General manager for transport planning at Transport for NSW Steve Enticott confirmed at the meeting that an interchange at Broadmeadow, instead of Wickham, could be considered.

‘‘We wouldn’t rule that out,’’ he  said.

The Newcastle Herald revealed earlier this month that eight-car Sydney trains may be terminated at Broadmeadow.

The urban renewal plan proposes a range of public domain upgrades and other measures that would enable the city to accommodate the 12,000 additional residents and 10,000 extra workers by 2036.

One person commented later about the number of images in the plans showing people  at footpath tables.

‘‘So that’s the plan is it, just put cafes everywhere?’’ he said.

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