The Dungog Chronicle has joined with its fellow Fairfax Media publications the Maitland Mercury, Singleton Argus, Scone Advocate, Cessnock Advertiser and Muswellbrook Chronicle to fight for the chance to vote on one of the region’s most crucial infrastructure decisions in recent memory.
Premier Mike Baird has refused to explain why the government will not delay the Newcastle rail line truncation for three months so the issue can be taken to the March election.
The Mercury wrote to Mr Baird’s office twice last week to ask why the government would not postpone work, given the scale of the project and the effect the plan would have on one of the state’s most populous regions.
The questions were put to the Premier after it was reported that nine of the 22 state cabinet members involved in making the rail decision in 2012 had since been replaced for various reasons, some of which included allegations of corruption.
The first response from the Premier’s office noted that the government was committed to delivering all of its promises.
But it did not explain why an exception would not be made for the rail decision considering the groundswell of opposition from the community, particularly in parts of the Hunter outside Newcastle.
“We will do everything possible to rebuild the trust between this community and the party,” the response noted.
“It will take time but we will do it.
“It can be fixed, it will be fixed and we will do it.
“In the meantime we will ensure that we deliver every single project we have committed to.
“Every minister will work hard to ensure they are on the ground delivering the commitments we have made to this great region.”
The Mercury contacted Mr Baird’s office again with the same questions the following day and explained that, with respect, the previous statement did not address the questions put to the Premier.
A one-line response was sent back: “The government remains fully committed to this vital project”.
When asked for a phone interview to further discuss the topic, Mr Baird’s office replied that the Premier was unavailable and had no further comments.
Work to cut the rail line between Wickham and Newcastle stations will begin on Boxing Day.
Many commuters from Dungog, Maitland and the wider Hunter are concerned that the cut will make it harder for them to access the CBD, with few public transport alternatives available for people who live outside Newcastle.