“Federal transport minister got it wrong.” Coal trains cause elevated pollution levels in Newcastle suburbs.

Newcastle community groups are dismayed by Federal Transport Minster Anthony Albanese’ response to today’s Stop T4 rally. Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese responded to the rally of 1,500 people by stating that coal trains do not cause any more particle pollution than passenger trains.

In fact, a recent monitoring study commissioned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) found that particle pollution from both loaded and unloaded coal wagons is statistically higher than from passenger trains. The ARTC study was commissioned in response to sustained community concern about particle pollution in suburban Newcastle and the Lower Hunter, and confirmed these concerns.

“It’s time Mr Albanese visited the Hunter to see first hand what we’re living with here,” said Coal Terminal Action Group (CTAG) spokesperson Ms Su Morley. “Denying the reality of high and rising coal dust pollution in our suburbs just adds insult to injury. It’s just not true.”

The ARTC ‘Rail Corridor Air Quality Monitoring Study’ assessed levels of particle pollution along the Hunter rail corridor by monitoring and modeling coal dust in two Newcastle suburbs late 2012. The report concluded that loaded coal trains increase PM10 levels by 4.8ugm-3 at Metford and 2.2ugm-3 at Mayfield, and that “concentrations coinciding with loaded and unloaded coal train passes are statistically higher for PM10 than concentrations recorded during passenger train passes”.

The ARTC report has been misrepresented by Mr Albanese as evidence that coal trains contribute no more particle pollution than freight or passenger trains.

“More than 1,500 people gathered in Newcastle today to communicate our concerns as strongly as possible to the NSW Premier and Planning Minister,” said Ms Morley. “The last thing we needed today was for the Federal Transport Minister to weigh in with misinformation about the real threat of coal dust.”

A separate report released last Thursday confirmed that particle pollution levels in the ‘coal corridor’ regularly exceed the national standard. More than 30,000 people in Newcastle live within 500 metres of coal trains and stockpiles.

The proposed fourth coal terminal (T4) is currently being assessed by the NSW Government. The Federal Environment Minister will conduct a separate assessment. The Federal Transport Minister is responsible for funding expansion of rail networks to transport coal from Hunter mines to the Port.

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