Newcastle railway line, New South Wales

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Newcastle railway line
Hamilton station level.jpg
Platform-level view of the Newcastle railway line as it runs through Hamilton, its temporary terminus.
Overview
Locale Newcastle
Termini Islington Junction
Hamilton
Stations 1
Operation
Opened 1857
Owner RailCorp
Operator(s) NSW TrainLink
Technical
Track length 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi)
Number of tracks Double track
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification Yes
Route map
00 Main North railway line to Armidale
164.39 km from Main North railway line
Beaumont Street
164.63 km Hamilton
Pacific Highway
Railway Street
165.60 km Newcastle Interchange opens 2017
Stewart Avenue
Wickham (1st site) closed 2014
Channel
Honeysuckle closed 1872
Newcastle Mortuary closed 1933
Civic closed 2014
Merewether Street
Newcastle closed 2014

The Newcastle railway line is a branch railway line in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. The line branches off the Main North line at Broadmeadow and travels in an easterly direction through the inner suburbs to Hamilton station. Until its curtailment in December 2014, it extended to Newcastle station. NSW TrainLink operates electric passenger train services over this line as part of its Central & Newcastle line service, and diesel railcars to Maitland and beyond as part of the Hunter Line.

History[edit]

626/726 at Hamilton station in July 2006
Former Wickham station in July 2013
Former Newcastle station in December 2012

A line between Newcastle and the then much larger settlement at Maitland was first proposed in 1853 by the proponents of the original Sydney to Parramatta railway. The Hunter River Railway Company was formed later that year and the line was surveyed, however the private company failed and was bought out by the NSW government.[1] Construction continued until the line opened in 1857.[2] The line between Sydney and Newcastle was electrified in June 1984.[3]

The terminus at Newcastle moved to various locations throughout the years, and has variously been named Honeysuckle and Honeysuckle Point. It was moved to its current location in 1872 and took its final name of Newcastle in 1935 when Wickham and Civic stations opened. A mortuary station opened in 1883 to serve trains departing for Sandgate Cemetery. It closed on 1 April 1933.[4] A large goods yard, the Newcastle Goods yard was constructed east of Newcastle station in 1858. This was closed in the late 1980s and redeveloped as a bus station and park land. The line was duplicated in 1864. The Main North Line from Sydney connected at Hamilton Junction in 1887.

Services[edit]

The Newcastle railway line as it appeared on NSW TrainLink Intercity maps in 2013–14, shortly before its partial closure.

Passenger and goods services were operated by steam haulage from inception. In 1961 the 620/720 class diesel railcars were introduced to provide local suburban service to Maitland on the Hunter line and south to Fassifern and Toronto on the Toronto branch line. Long haul trains to Sydney were operated by steam haulage until their final withdrawal from passenger services in 1971, and from freight trains in 1972.

In June 1984, the line was electrified when the electrification project from Wyong was completed and electrified local and long distance services were introduced south to Sydney. Local services to Maitland and beyond continue to be served by diesel railcars. The introduction into service of the Endeavour cars from 1994, and the Hunter railcars from 2006, allowed the final withdrawal of the long running 620/720 railcars.

Closure proposals[edit]

A criticism of the line has been that it cuts Newcastle off from its own harbour foreshore with a number of proposals to close or at least pare it back. In November 1972, Minister for Transport Milton Morris announced the line would be cut back to Civic.[5]

In 1990, CityRail proposed closing the line beyond Civic in response to a study on Newcastle's transport and development.[6] As a proposed solution to this, since 2003 there have been studies to close the line and have Broadmeadow station become the major rail transport hub for the Newcastle region.[7]

In 2005, there was a move pushed by business and property development interests to close the line with the proposal to redevelop the foreshore. This was widely criticised by among others Upper Hunter Region users, and former Deputy Prime Minister and rail enthusiast Tim Fischer.[8][9] Originally the State Government had decided to close the line but later in 2006 and after a huge public outcry, Premier Morris Iemma announced that the line would stay open although in 2007 tenders were placed for a study into the line's future, including possible removal of the overhead wires and dieselisation of services.[10]

Partial closure implementation[edit]

In December 2012, the New South Wales government announced the line east of Wickham would close to better connect the older CBD to the water front precinct of Honeysuckle.[11] This resulted in the closure of Wickham, Civic and Newcastle stations.

The line closed between Hamilton and Newcastle stations on 25 December 2014,[12][13] with the Hamilton to Wickham section set to reopen in 2017 once Newcastle Interchange has been completed.[14][15][16]

A short section of the corridor east of Wickham is planned to be reused as part of the Newcastle Light Rail, which will generally follow a parallel route to the railway line along Hunter Street and Scott Street and serve as its replacement.[17][18][19]

Nile inquiry into Newcastle planning[edit]

The resignations in August 2014 of Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell from the NSW Legislative Assembly and of Jeff McCloy from his post as Lord Mayor of Newcastle, came at a time of growing public concern that the decision to truncate the Newcastle railway had not been made properly. On 16 September 2014, the opposition and cross-bench parties in the NSW Legislative Council successfully moved for a select committee to inquire into the planning process in Newcastle and the broader Hunter region.[20]

The inquiry took over 370 submissions from official bodies and the public.[21]

A substantial majority of the submissions opposed the Government's decision to close the railway. The inquiry held three public hearings in November 2014; some evidence was given of dealings with owners of land parcels near the railway who did not disclose their interests.[22]

The chairman of the committee requested the NSW government to defer the railway's closure, scheduled for 25 December 2014, until his inquiry had considered the submissions and evidence and made its report.[23] This request was denied.[24]

On 18 December 2014, the inquiry released an interim report containing eight recommendations, including that no steps be taken to remove existing rail infrastructure until more planning work had been undertaken.[25]

Court action[edit]

On 24 December 2014, the Save Our Rail (NSW) Inc group were granted an injunction by the Supreme Court of New South Wales preventing RailCorp from removing any part of line infrastructure after the closure of the line. RailCorp have lodged an appeal.[26] This did not affect the closure of the line, but if the appeal is unsuccessful, will require an Act of Parliament to formally close the line before work to remove infrastructure can commence.[27]

Legislation[edit]

On 9 September 2015 the 'Transport Administration Amendment (Closure of Railway Line at Newcastle) Bill 2015' was introduced into the NSW parliament lower house by Transport Minister Andrew Constance. [28] The bill was passed by the lower house on 16 September 2015 on party lines, and introduced to the upper house the same day by Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

The numbers in the upper house were not as certain, with the balance of power held by the Shooters and Fishers Party (two members), the Animal Justice Party (one member), the Christian Democratic Party (Australia) (two members), and the Greens New South Wales (five members). The government needed just two votes of these members for the bill to pass, and on 14 October the final votes were taken, achieving the support of the two Shooters, Robert Borsak and Rob Brown.

The bill was assented to by the NSW Governor on 22 October 2015, and so became an Act.

The Act did not seek to amend the Transport Administration Act itself, merely to provide enabling legislation for the railway line from Railway Street, Wickham to the former Newcastle station to be removed.[29] It did however contain retrospective legislation declaring that all work previously carried out was deemed authorised by the Act.[30]

The legislation essentially made the Save Our Rail injunction moot, as the injunction was granted on the basis that rail infrastructure could not be removed without an Act of Parliament. The track and associated overhead wiring and stanchions were removed in early 2016, except within Newcastle station.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Walters, C: The Great Northern Railway Newcastle to Maitland 150 years on Australian Railway History, April 2007. ARHS
  2. ^ "Newcastle Branch". www.nswrail.net. Retrieved 1 May 2006. 
  3. ^ "The Official Opening of Newcastle Rail Electrification" Railway Digest July 1984 page 218
  4. ^ "60 Years Ago" Railway Digest April 1993 page 162
  5. ^ "20 Years Ago" Railway Digest November 1992 page 442
  6. ^ "Newcastle terminus may move to Civic" Railway Digest July 1990 page 239
  7. ^ "Working group releases Newcastle city rail report". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 21 November 2003. 
  8. ^ "Shires' group urged to oppose rail closure plan". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 8 June 2005. 
  9. ^ "Fischer outlines Newcastle rail plan". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 12 September 2005. 
  10. ^ "Iemma backflips on Newcastle rail decision as Cabinet set to meet". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 21 February 2006. 
  11. ^ The deepest cut...Newcastle's rail line to go ABC News 14 December 2012
  12. ^ Last train leaves Newcastle station Newcastle Herald 26 December 2014
  13. ^ New era for Newcastle Transport for NSW 26 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Revitalisation of Newcastle CBD underway with truncation to begin on Boxing Day". Transport for NSW. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Revitalisation of Newcastle CBD continues as Wickham interchange gets the green light Transport for NSW 14 November 2014
  16. ^ Tender awarded to design and construct new Wickham interchange Transport for NSW 18 December 2014
  17. ^ Newcastle Light Rail Announced Transport for NSW 23 May 2014
  18. ^ Light rail route for city finally unveiled ABC News 23 May 2014
  19. ^ Light rail decision draws mixed reactions Newcastle Herald 23 May 2014
  20. ^ Planning process in Newcastle and the broader Hunter region Parliament of NSW
  21. ^ Submissions Parliament of NSW November 2014
  22. ^ Transcript Parliament of NSW November 2014
  23. ^ Transcript Parliament of NSW November 2014
  24. ^ Rail corridor to be developed Newcastle Herald 4 December 2014
  25. ^ The planning process in Newcastle and the broader Hunter region Parliament of NSW 18 December 2014
  26. ^ Save Our Rail: Newcastle rail campaigners seek Supreme Court injunction Sydney Morning Herald 22 December 2014
  27. ^ Newcastle rail line to stay - for now Sydney Morning Herald 24 December 2014
  28. ^ Bill page at NSW parliament website
  29. ^ Government response to 500+ petition on Transport Administration Act
  30. ^ Full text of the Act as passed