Where’s Gladys? Minister for the Hunter goes missing as questions pile up about Boxing Day

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The NSW Labor Opposition has accused Minister for the Hunter Gladys Berejiklian of abandoning the Hunter as unanswered questions pile up about the chaos in store for the region’s commuters on Boxing Day when the Baird Government cuts the Newcastle rail line. 

Minister Berejiklian from Willoughby on Sydney's north shore has not visited the Hunter in at least two months. Premier Mike Baird has not been sighted since August 19 the day he apologised and confirmed Liberal candidates would not be contesting by-elections for the seats of Newcastle and Charlestown.

On a visit to Broadmeadow train station today, Shadow Minister for Transport Penny Sharpe joined by Labor candidate for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp – said the Government’s withdrawal from the region was unacceptable.

“The last time I checked, there are still cars driving up the M1 and trains running between Newcastle and Sydney there is no excuse for Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian not to be in the Hunter coming clean on what will happen on Boxing Day,” Ms Sharpe said.

“On August 19, Mike Baird apologised for failing this region and promised the Liberal Party would go from door to door in the Hunter but he has not been sighted since.

“It beggars belief that Minister Berejiklian is refusing to answer basic issues of concern to commuters – given we are now just 12 weeks away from the rail truncation.”

Following questions from Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr, the Government has been forced to reveal today it has allocated the Hunter a meagre three of the 91 new “growth buses” planned across NSW during 2014-15. This is despite the rising population and need to run frequent extra buses into Newcastle CBD due to the plan from Boxing Day to terminate trains at Broadmeadow.

Labor Candidate for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said he was now requesting that Minister Berejiklian answer eight specific questions:

  1. Where will the replacement buses stop?

  2. How often will they run?

  3. How much will a ticket cost?

  4. Will fares be integrated with the Opal system?

  1. Will buses be wheelchair accessible?

  2. Can the Government guarantee that buses will not need to be pulled from elsewhere in the Hunter to

    make room for these extra services?

  3. Can the Government guarantee it will put in enough capacity to cope with the large summer crowds?

  4. How long will bus services have to remain given the Government has provided no detail about if and

    when a light rail will even start to be planned let alone get built?

“Summer in Newcastle is shaping up as public transport chaos and it is unacceptable for Gladys Berejiklian not to be here,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

“You will have football fans visiting for the Asian Cup, New Year’s Eve revellers heading to the foreshore and families wanting to swim at the beach. This is the worst possible time for transport disruptions. The Government should spare us this chaos by shelving its plans until after the March election.

“If Ms Berejiklian refuses to keep the Hunter in the loop – then she has no business being the Minister for the Hunter.”

Labor Candidate for Maitland Jenny Aitchison said she had her own questions to put to the Minister.

“From my understanding, commuters wanting to travel from Maitland to Sydney will need to get off the train at Hamilton, switch to a bus that will take them one stop to Broadmeadow and then switch again for a train to Central,” Ms Aitchison said.

"How are local families meant to get over to New Year’s Eve on the foreshore let alone the fireworks down in Sydney?"

“Gladys Berejiklian should be up here justifying all this to the people of Maitland because it is just completely impractical and ridiculous.” 

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