Newcastle light rail: forum hears of push for protest votes at federal election | poll

DEFIANT: A meeting of community group Keep Rail on the Corridor heard that federal Liberal candidates in the Hunter could face backlash over the state government's light rail plan. Picture: Brodie Owen
DEFIANT: A meeting of community group Keep Rail on the Corridor heard that federal Liberal candidates in the Hunter could face backlash over the state government's light rail plan. Picture: Brodie Owen

RUNNING light rail down Hunter Street would “drive a stake through the heart of Newcastle”, an alliance of community groups including Save Our Rail has heard.

More than 300 people packed Newcastle Leagues Club on Monday night as opponents to the state government’s light rail plan vowed to “embarrass” Premier Mike Baird in the lead-up to the federal election.

The alliance – called Keep Rail on the Corridor (KROC) – will heap public pressure on Hunter Liberal candidates by rallying the electorate for a vote “that only goes one way”.

Access Newcastle Foreshore spokesman Fred Dumbrell, who is a former Teachers Federation Hunter organsier, said the federal election campaign is when the state government is at its most vulnerable.

“I’ve been doing this a long time … the thing that makes politicians move is the media,” Mr Dumbrell said.

“Politicians want to look good and they certainly don’t want their federal colleagues to look bad.

“We have to change the political will behind this plan – and we have to make it obvious to them.

“Having the whole community of Newcastle voting one way is going to have a big impact.”

Several speakers at the forum took aim at the frequency of the trains, journey times, traffic flow, the Wickham to Pacific Park route, the level of community consultation and high-rise development in the former rail corridor.

“This is a comedy of errors,” Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said.

“The people of Newcastle are going to pay a very, very sorry price if this goes ahead.”

Greens Upper House MP Mehreen Faruqi at several points referred to a government that was “out of control” on its own power.

“I am not exaggerating,” she said.

“Make no mistake, this is an agenda driven by big money and a really insatiable appetite for privatisation.

“There is no transparency, no community consultation, and the routes have changed willy nilly based on what the vested interests want.”

University of Newcastle Professor Howard Dick claimed that “basic principals” of economics were not being applied to the light rail proposal.

Professor Dick said the government’s own Review of Environmental Factors showed the network was “barely twice walking speed”.

“The way you make public transport a better option for people is you make it cheaper, faster, more frequent, comfortable,” he said. 

“The exact opposite is being done here.”

KROC is circulating a petition against the light rail proposal.