Don’t ever doubt coal is still king in the minds of our government representatives with two recent decisions, affecting our community, clearly showing this fact.
First we had the decision by the NSW Government to trial two daily bus services linking Singleton to Maitland.
The bus service which will also stop at Branxton, Greta and Lochinvar to pick up passengers will terminate/start from the Maitland railway station.
Years of campaigning, most notably by the local group Two More Trains, has resulted in this trial but the question must be asked why not more trains as they are simply a better option for commuters.
That question was answered by visiting Minister for Transport Andrew Constance who stated the rail line between Singleton and Maitland was too busy carrying freight to allow for any additional passenger trains.
Now the biggest freight user of the Hunter line – our coal trains. So commuters have to take a back seat on the bus so coal can head to the port.
Now the second decision showing the power of coal was made at this week’s extraordinary Singleton Council meeting where the Councillors, with the exclusion of Cr Scott and Cr McNamara, voted to proceed with the closure of Wallaby Scrub Road.
The main arguments in favour of the closure were the need to protect jobs at the Warkworth open cut mine as the road covers a coal seam that the mine has approval to develop as part of its expansion plans.
So coal versus road and coal wins no matter that the road in question was built by convicts in the 1830s and provides a vital link between the villages of Bulga and Jerrys Plains. Coal versus heritage and communities coal wins.
The worst thing about this decision on Wallaby Scrub Road is the fact that in 2003 the then NSW Labor Government signed a Deed of Agreement with the owners of the Warkworth mine – Rio Tinto to protect in perpetuity Saddle Back Ridge and therefore the road from any future mining development.
But coal prices went through the roof a few years later, coal became king, so the Coalition Government cancelled the agreement. Good old Governments sign an agreement one day cancel it the next – bit like saying before an election you have a certain policy and then once elected dropping that policy.