Pro-rail rally draws hundreds to the Civic

SEVERAL hundred people took part in a ‘‘last ditch’’ protest against the loss of Newcastle rail services on Sunday, with the Baird government tipped to push for its legislated closure this week.

Packed into the Civic station forecourt under the shadow of a giant construction crane at the University of Newcastle site across the road, the protesters and a dozen or so speakers called on the government to put people before profits.

The protesters then marched over the rail bridge, walking east to Merewether Street, where they filed across Hunter Street to re-form in Wheeler Place.

There, Save Our Rail stalwart Joan Dawson said she had a simple message for those attending the ‘‘keep rail in the corridor’’ rally: ‘‘Don’t let developer greed go ahead of community need.’’

Earlier, Maitland Labor MP Jenny Aitchison told the gathering she was representing the hundreds of thousands of people from outside of Newcastle who were losing access to the city through the rail cut.

Newcastle Greens councillor Therese Doyle, who helped organise the protest, said Civic was chosen to highlight the stupidity of shutting that station at a time when the $95-million NeW Space campus was under construction.

University academic Roger Markwick, speaking as a member of the National Tertiary Education Union’s Newcastle branch committee, said NeW Space had five car-parking spaces for 4000 students and 400 staff, showing the need for public transport.

One speaker to stand out from the roster was Passmores Business and Management College owner Duncan Passmore, who said businesses in Hunter Street were already suffering from the rail line closure.

Mr Passmore said light rail down Hunter Street was a disaster in the making, and urged the government to run light rail down the existing, historic corridor.

Greens MLC and transport spokesperson Mehreen Faruqi said the government’s transport changes had been made ‘‘without evidence and without community consultation’’.

Ms Faruqi said property development, not public transport, was the main concern driving the government.

‘‘They want to sell the land, that’s their end plan,’’ Ms Faruqi said.

‘‘If they run the light rail down the corridor they don’t need a parliamentary bill, as we have seen in Sydney with Dulwich Hill.’’

Hansard records show the Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line at Newcastle) Bill 2015 passed the lower house on September 16.

Ms Faruqi said it seemed the government was preparing to put the bill to the upper house, which sat this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

She said the Greens, Christian Democrats and the Animal Justice Party’s Mark Pearson were all opposed to the bill, meaning the government needed the government needed the Shooters and Fishers Party votes to pass laws closing the corridor.

The Newcastle Herald was unable on Sunday to obtain comment from the shooters party.