NEWCASTLE’S Labor councillors are leading a renewed push to have the council formally oppose state government moves to truncate the city’s rail line on Boxing Day.
The move comes just 16 days before the line’s planned closure and despite work already starting. It also comes despite two of the Labor councillors previously voting to acknowledge the rail line was a state issue and not a council one.
Labor’s Tim Crakanthorp, lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Stephanie Posniak and Jason Dunn have lodged a notice of motion to Tuesday night’s council meeting asking their colleagues to support the retention of heavy rail services between Wickham and Newcastle, call on the state government to ‘‘halt its decision’’ and write to the premier, planning minister and transport minister ‘‘as a matter of urgency alerting them to this policy position’’.
The eleventh-hour move in part relies on a separate move from Greens councillors Therese Doyle and Michael Osborne, who will first seek to rescind the three council decisions made in February and March this year in which a majority of councillors backed the city’s urban renewal plan and light rail project.
Since then, the power shift created by the resignation of lord mayor Jeff McCloy has given the council’s Labor-Greens alliance the balance of power.
In their call for the rail line’s retention, the Labor councillors argue that public transport targets would not be met unless the heavy rail was retained. The university campus, the law courts and the Urbangrowth-GPT project means ‘‘we need additional public transport capacity, not less’’.
Labor’s move is in contrast to previous decisions of the council, including one made in 2008 when the council, which included Crs Crakanthorp and Nelmes, unanimously backed a motion that acknowledged ‘‘the decisions regarding the inner city rail line are ultimately a matter for the state government who own and operate the infrastructure and land in question’’.
The 2008 move did, however, also seek to support a ‘‘viable fully integrated public transport system’’ and called on the government to retain existing services until a new or replacement service was costed – something that has been controversially missing from the state government’s Wickham plan.
Cr Nelmes said on Monday she still ‘‘stands by everything in the 2008 motion’’.
‘‘It should still be council’s preferred option because it would prevent development of the rail corridor, properly cost any interchange project before it went ahead, and leave the current system in place until a new interchange is built,’’ she said.
Regardless, Premier Mike Baird is unlikely to change the government’s position. Late last week he said the debate was no longer about whether or not to truncate the line.