Hunter rail fight heading to the courts

THE Christmas and New Year period has produced mixed results in the courts for local rail commuters trying to stop the planned truncation of the Newcastle rail line.

On Christmas Eve, Supreme Court judge Michael Adams ruled Hunter Development Corporation is defined as a rail infrastructure owner after the NSW government transferred rail assets to the corporation on December 19.

While Justice Adams ruled it was legal for signalling systems, overhead wiring and boom gates to be transferred to HDC by the government, His Honour said rail track could not be ripped up by a rail infrastructure owner unless it was authorised by an Act of Parliament.

The Supreme Court’s decision was welcomed by the Save Our Rail group, among them local commuters from Scone, Muswellbrook, Singleton and Maitland.

These rail travellers have long argued a replacement bus service between Wickham and Civic would be inadequate, pose a risk to the elderly and potentially expose the community to increased crime while they wait at bus stops.

But, on January 2, the NSW Government flagged its displeasure with the Supreme Court decision, filing an application in the NSW Court of Appeal.

The appeal has been listed for directions on March 4 in Sydney.

While the case continues to move slowly through the courts, the NSW Government has implemented part of its changed transport plan even though it is currently prevented from removing rail tracks.

Buses have been introduced to replace the rail service and some rail assets, including overhead wiring, have been removed.

Transport NSW claims security guards are in place to ensure the community is unable to enter the rail corridor.

Social media sites are active with chatter about the transport changes, with some commuters alleging they have waited for long periods before a bus arrives.

LEGAL STOUSH: The Law Courts in Sydney is where Upper Hunter rail commuters are battling the NSW Government over the planned truncation of the Newcastle rail line between Wickham and Civic.

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