Members of CTAG met today with Shadow Minister for Resources and Energy, Ian Macfarlane, to discuss the possible introduction of wagon covers on coal trains travelling on the Commonwealth owned Australian rail Track Corporation rail lines.
“We are disappointed that Mr Macfarlane refused to commit to such a simple dust mitigation strategy despite 89% of people interviewed in a NSW survey supporting the proposal for New South Wales to “require all coal railway wagons to be fully covered to minimise dust”, said Paul Winn Community Liaison Officer with the Hunter Community Environment Centre.
The survey results follow the release of the Coal Terminal Action Group’s ‘Coal Train Signature Study’ that showed coal trains increase particle pollution by up to 13 times background levels in Newcastle.
“It is within Commonwealth powers to direct ARTC to impose restrictions on coal carriers using its infrastructure to cover coal wagons in the interest of community health.”
A separate independent survey of 165 Newcastle people commissioned by the Hunter Community Environment Centre confirmed a high level of voter support for measures to control coal dust:
- 69% were “concerned that the planned fourth coal terminal will have a negative impact on the environment”,
- 67% were “concerned that the dust / particulate pollution from the planned fourth coal terminal will have a negative impact on community health”,
- 58% said their concern about the proposed coal terminal would influence how they vote in terms of the upcoming federal election, and
- 46% would “vote for a candidate or Party that committed to addressing health concerns before approving a fourth coal terminal” (42% were “not sure”).
“These results make it clear that parties contesting the Federal election ignore the Hunter’s poor air quality at their peril. Any candidate hoping to win the seat of Newcastle must commit to covering and washing coal wagons”, said Mr Winn.