Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell, TOOT representatives Nick and Rita Casmirri, Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Lismore MP Thomas George.
Clarence MP Steve Cansdell, Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell, TOOT representatives Nick and Rita Casmirri, Tweed MP Geoff Provest and Lismore MP Thomas George.

Rail sell off unites

An unlikely coalition that included representatives from the Greens, the Nationals, the CWA and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union gathered outside Parliament House in Macquarie Street on Tuesday to protest against the government's proposed sell off of disused rail corridors.

Lismore MP Thomas George said it would be much harder for a future Coalition Government to return trains to the region if Labor was allowed to sell off the rail corridor.

“This is infrastructure vandalism which we must fight to the last breath,” Mr George said.

Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon said the proposed changes had been developed without any community consultation and had angered community groups across the state.

“These laws are a gift to developers and a kick in the teeth for our future rail network. The move to sell off rail lines is irresponsible in an age of climate change and peak oil. The government should be building a bigger rail network, not shutting lines down,” she said. “The government is being deceptive about its intentions. It is already possible to create rail trails in NSW. Many exist in the Hunter and an Act of parliament was not needed for them to be created. The premise of the legislation is fundamentally flawed and should be scrapped.”

Another group involved in the protest was the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) who said rail was an integral part of the transport system needed for the over 65's.

CPSA policy co-ordinator Charmaine Crowe said the sale of the rail corridors would further detriment the NSW public, especially the elderly and less mobile who rely on trains to get around.

“NSW's over-65 population is projected to reach two million by 2036. Transport planning is critical to meet the needs of an ageing population, which the NSW Government has noted in its planning for 2030 document. However, its practice is in direct contrast to its mandate that transport planning should 'meet the gap in transport requirements for older people'”, she said.

“The NSW Government should be putting trains back on tracks, not ripping tracks up.”

TOOT president Karin Kolbe said it was “a very determined mob” of about 100 people who had gathered to protest against the Transport Administration Amendment (Rail Trails) Bill.

“We were pointing out that in other parts of the country they are building railway lines, but Sydney just seems to want to sell them off... The Labor Party has given us no reason why we need this legislation,” Ms Kolbe said.

Under the existing legislation, a separate act is needed to close each individual rail line. The act being debated would give the government the power to close any disused rail line without going back to parliament. In a concession to the lobbyists, Transport Minister David Campbell introduced an amendment to the bill that would only allow the removal of rail lines that have been closed for 15 years.

The decision will ultimately come down to how the cross bench members of the Upper House (The Shooters Party and The Christian Democrats) vote on the issue. Ms Kolbe was given the opportunity to address them all and said they listened attentively and asked intelligent questions but gave no indication as to how they would vote.


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