Friday, 7 July 2017

Train to nowhere – Newcastle’s ghost railway

Walking around an unused railway station in Newcastle is unreal experience.

Empty platforms. No passengers. No railway tracks. No passengers. Yet all the buildings and signage are intact.

The ghost platforms and rail right of way at Civic Railway Station on the Newcastle branch line which was closed by the Baird Liberal Government in 2014. (I Willis)

Just like the day the train stopped.

The ghosts of the railway past. A railway station with no trains. A railway station with no passengers.

So what gives?

The CHS blogger walked around Civic Railway Station in inner Newcastle this recently.

The situation seems beyond belief. 

Across the road the University of Newcastle is about to open a new faculty building yet the old rail link between the two university campuses is now defunct.

NeW Space is a $95 million landmark education precinct under development by the University of Newcastle in the heart of Newcastle's CBD. Lyons Architecture teamed with local firm, EJE Architecture, to create the iconic NeW Space. The building has been designed to maximise the commanding views to surrounding landmarks with views through to Stockton, across the harbour and up to The Hill. The building is just metres from the ghost railway station at Civic. (I Willis)

What is going on you might ask?

Well. The Newcastle branch line was closed in 2014 by the NSW Baird Liberal Government.
The line between Newcastle and Maitland was originally opened in 1857 with goods and passengers services. Steam haulage was removed in 1971 and the line electrified in 1984.

The first hint of the closure of the Newcastle branch line occurred in 1972 when the line was proposed to stop at Civic.  The rail line between Hamilton and Newcastle was closed in 2014. There was unsuccessful court action by the Save Our Rail group.

The track and associated overhead wiring and stanchions were removed in early 2016.

The ghost like Civic railway station on the former Newcastle branch line now deserted except for the pigeons. The nightime image provide an eerie reminder that there was significant community opposition to the closure of the branch line. The decision highlights a history of Sydney-based decisions that have been made against community wishers over the decades. (I Willis)

The Baird Government's decisions were strongly criticised by some community groups, the Labor opposition and the Greens, who say removing a direct rail link into the heart of Newcastle is a retrograde step.

Premier Mike Baird has confirmed that much of the land used for the current rail corridor would be open for development. (SMH, 15 October 2015)

The NSW  Berejiklian state government is constructing the Newcastle Light Rail to replace the former branch rail link. It is part of the Newcastle Revitalisation program. The 2.7 light rail track is running from Newcastle interchange at Wickham to Pacific Park near Newcastle Beach. The route will use about one kilometre of the old rail corridor and then run along Hunter and Scott Street. The former routes of Newcastle trams before they were removed in the 1960s.

There will be 5 stops on the new light rail line: Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park. The line is planned to be running in early 2019.

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