THE state government will seek Parliament’s approval to officially close the Newcastle rail line at Wickham and finally make a significant start on its $460 million city transport overhaul.
More than eight months after it shut down the trains, Transport Minister Andrew Constance will give notice on Wednesday of a bill to close the line and rip up the tracks.
The move would be in accordance with the same statutory requirements the government tried to side-step when it ceased services into Newcastle railway station on Boxing Day last year.
But it now says new legislation is necessary to avert a cost blowout and further delays to the project, rather than continuing to wait for a ruling from the Court of Appeal on whether it can go ahead without an Act of Parliament.
“The city has waited long enough. We always said we wanted to deliver the rejuvenation of the state’s second city but we can’t dither around any more,’’ Mr Constance said.
“Inaction now will prevent this once in a generation revitalisation proceeding quickly. We’re introducing this legislation to crack on with the project which will be a game-changer for Newcastle.’’
It briefed MPs on the upper house crossbench on Tuesday about the ‘‘Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line at Newcastle) Bill 2015’’.
But it will seek to pile pressure on the opposition to support the legislation by flinging Labor’s record in office of flip-flopping on the rail line’s future in its face.
“It’s time to put Labor’s do-nothing legacy behind us and get this done. I urge Labor to support the bill and support the revitalisation of Newcastle,’’ Mr Constance said.
The Court of Appeal reserved its judgment in the case between the government and Save Our Rail, after a hearing in July.
That followed the Supreme Court’s Christmas Eve decision last year that tied the government’s hands from ripping out the tracks, and installing light rail along part of the corridor. It would also build a transport interchange at Wickham.
The Supreme Court ruled the government had to abide by the Transport Administration Act, which states an Act of Parliament is needed before RailCorp could close the rail line, which would include removing the tracks and associated infrastructure or selling the land.
In an attempt to circumvent the requirement, the government ordered the Hunter Development Corporation to use its powers to compulsorily acquire the corridor for $10.
It believed HDC would not be bound by the same restrictions as RailCorp, which in turn wouldn’t be deemed to have sold the land if it was forced to hand it over. But the Supreme Court rejected the arrangements.
Without Labor’s backing, the government would need the support of the Christian Democrats, who have been vocal critics of the rail’s removal, or the Shooter and Fishers MPs to get the bill through.
“We could take the easy road and let this fall by the wayside, but we want regeneration of a great city under way,’’ Mr Constance said.
But Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp labelled the government ‘‘arrogant’’ and accused it of wasting ‘‘huge amounts of taxpayers’ money’’.
‘‘They should have got an Act of Parliament in the first place,’’ he said.
‘‘Now the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for very expensive legal costs for a court case [the government] won’t even wait for the result of.’’
Save Our Rail vice president Kim Cross said the group would continue to lobby minor parties not to support the rail’s removal, and believed the government did not have the numbers to pass the bill.
However, regardless of the bill’s fate, the group would have no way of legally compelling the government to reinstate train services.