NEWCASTLE City Council has formally changed its stance on the planned CBD rail project and will send an ‘‘urgent letter’’ to premier Mike Baird to let him know.
Having voted three times in the past eight months to support the city’s urban renewal strategy, including the government’s plans for a new rail interchange at Wickham, the newly-shaped council led by new Labor lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes reversed those decisions on Tuesday night.
The council’s formal position now supports retention of the heavy rail line between Wickham and Newcastle. The move, formally posed by the council’s Labor faction, also calls on the state government to ‘‘halt its decision to cut the rail line’’ and inform the premier, the transport minister and planning minister of its change in stance.
The move comes just two weeks before the government’s planned shutdown of heavy rail services into Newcastle, on December 26, and Mr Baird again saying the project will go ahead as planned.
During Tuesday’s debate the Labor councillors, backed by the Greens, said the council had minimal chances of meeting benchmarks set in its own policies to increase public transport usage by 400 per cent if the rail line was cut at Wickham and replaced with a light rail service.
The retention of heavy rail was vital, they said, given new developments in the city including the new University of Newcastle campus and the new law courts both to be located at Civic, and the Urbangrowth-GPT residential and retail development on Hunter Street Mall.