QUEUE: Traffic at Adamstown gates.RAIL enthusiasts say a big upgrade between Sydney and Newcastle is based on replacing a number of ‘‘passing loops’’ that were taken out of the system over the past decade.
The state government says the old loops were too small for long modern freight trains, but critics say they could have been extended before now.
Thornton public transport advocate Bob Bell, who was on the NSW Commuter Council when it argued against axing the passing loops, said people had plenty of warning that longer trains were on the way.
‘‘In most places they could have lengthened the loops because there’s plenty of land,’’ Mr Bell said.
‘‘We warned them it would create problems but they took them out of service and let them go to rack and ruin.’’
A recently retired train driver of more than 30years’ experience said the loops had been taken out of service by bureaucrats with no practical knowledge.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union organiser Steve Wright said the old loops at Awaba, Dora Creek, Morisset, Ourimbah and Tuggerah were built for 500-metre trains, not the 1500-metre ‘‘super freighters in use now’’.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘‘The loops that were previously removed from the area were only a few hundred metres long and unable to hold large freight trains.’’
The Transport Minister’s announcement on Wednesday of a $1billion spending program between Strathfield and Hexham has reignited debate on delay at the Adamstown and Islington level crossings and the need for a dedicated freight line between Fassifern and Hexham.
Federal Labor MP for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson, said Canberra was not looking at the Fassifern bypass because the state government had never formally proposed it.
State Liberal MP Tim Owen said Ms Grierson was correct, but that was because ‘‘her Labor mates’’ in state politics had ignored the Hunter for 16years.
Ms Berejiklian said the Fassifern freight link was ‘‘a potential future option’’ that would be considered in the long-term transport master plan.