Historic Hexham has back to wall

LIFELONG Hexham resident Tony Mason says he and his neighbours are the forgotten people of Newcastle.

With their houses tucked between the Pacific Highway on one side and the main northern railway on the other, they live in the midst of a constant passing parade of cars and trains.

Mr Mason, 64, loves his home and does not want to move, but he says things have become so difficult in the past six to nine months that he is now wondering whether his historic hamlet even has a residential future.

“I’ve been there since the days of the wooden wagons, but what we’ve got now is unbelievable,’’ Mr Mason said on Saturday.

“It’s a stop-and-start place, trains roaring through and then the lights turn red and it’s just bang, bang, bang and then they take off and it’s thumping and carrying on down the line.’’

Mr Mason said two spots along the Hexham straight were used by train companies to change drivers, which added to the stop-start nature of the running.

Mr Mason and his neighbour Chantel Walker say the main three problems are noise, vibration and coal dust.

Ms Walker says that even with the windows shut she has to wipe the coal dust off her kitchen table every day.

Mr Mason says he washes his house down every month and while the dust itself is a personal inconvenience, he is more worried about the health implications, especially as the amount of coal hauled to the port increases dramatically.

Like others who live near the tracks, Mr Mason says empty wagons as much as full ones are sources of dust.

One of Hexham’s major concerns is the pair of coal-rail developments being promoted by Australian Rail Track Corporation and QR National on the Maitland

end of the Hexham straight.

ARTC wants to build a set of ‘‘side roads’’ beside the main tracks to allow trains to be queued before entering Kooragang Island, while QR has plans for a train refuelling facility.

Mr Mason and Ms Walker were among a group who met recently with ARTC to discuss the impact on residents, and both say a wall beside the tracks is probably the best way to make things quieter and cleaner.

“A lot of people here would like to be bought out,’’ Mr Mason said.

‘‘I love it, but sometimes I think the best thing would be to bulldoze the houses and turn it into industrial land.’’

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