North-East rail to close

DISAPPOINTED: Peter Partridge.But the line would not be closed, he insisted.
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Mr McKinnon said that low freight volumes on the route had meant a significant financial loss for Tasrail over the past few years.

“We had meetings … to see if we can attract additional freight and reverse that financial loss,” he said.

“We’ve been unable, to date, to attract sufficient rail freight to make the service financially viable.

“As soon as there is a business case that justifies the reinstatement of regular services, we would be the first ones to (do so).

“But that appears to be a long way away … because of the nature of the area, and terrain, road transport can offer a very competitive service.

“To be perfectly honest … if we’d known then what we know now, we would never have reopened the line in 1998.”

Mr McKinnon said that Tasrail reopened the line on the basis of “very substantial volumes” of timber coming out of and going into the region.

“They didn’t ever come to fruition, (but) the line will be maintained until Tasrail can justify running services again,” he said.

Dorset Mayor Peter Partridge said that the cessation of rail freight services was disappointing for the region.

“It’s one of those things that happens when governments dispose of public utilities like railways,” he said.

“Once they get in the hands of private enterprise, they need to run at a profit, or the shareholders get upset.

“I understand there’s a bridge at Wyena that needs some attention, and I’d urge the Government to make some money available for that.”

Cr Partridge said that the proposed upgrade of Golconda Rd had taken on new urgency following Tasrail’s announcement.

“The money promised will only fix about a third of the road to Lilydale,” he said.

“And the cessation of rail services will mean even more truck movements on already congested, inadequate, access roads.”

Bass Liberal MHA Sue Napier said that the end of rail services meant an extra 60,000 tonnes of freight on the North-East’s road system.

Fellow Bass Liberal MHA Peter Gutwein said that the State Government should commit to a Bridport-Scottsdale Rd upgrade because of a potential extra 40 heavy vehicle movements a week.

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Teenage girl suffers burns in home fire

The gutted interior of the Albion Park home which burned after an electric blanket caught on fire. The roof shows the extent of the damage. Pictures: KEN ROBERTSON
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A teenage girl woke to find herself surrounded by fire yesterday after a fault in an electric blanket ignited bedding.The 15-year-old suffered minor burns in the fire that spread quickly and gutted her Albion Park home.Emergency services were called to Sirius Court at 1am after reports that a home was alight.It is believed the girl turned on her electric blanket during the overnight cold snap and was roused soon after by the flames.She then alerted her mother, aunt and a cousin, also staying in the house.A resident of the cul-de-sac who asked not to be named said the 15-year-old was lucky to escape serious injury.”The heat woke her up – there were flames at the end of her bed. It was a bad scene,” he said.The man and his son tried to extinguish the fire with a garden hose without success.”The flames were about 15 feet (4.5m) high. I thought I’d got it under control but then the ceiling collapsed and the fire got inside the roof. It took off like a rocket.”The heat was so intense the aluminium frame melted to the brickwork and the adjoining retaining wall and fence were damaged.”Neighbour Luke DeGraaf said he went back into the house with one of the occupants to rescue the family pets. A guinea pig, rabbit and chicken were saved but the family cat is still missing.NSW Fire Brigades officers extinguished the blaze and an investigation unit stayed until 6am.”There’s total devastation inside. From the front it looks okay, but then that’s all that’s left – the front bedroom and the garage,” the neighbour said.All four occupants of the house were treated at Shellharbour Hospital for smoke inhalation while the 15-year-old was also treated for burns.

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Supporter logs on to fight for Sumo

Sally Champion, of Dapto, has started a Facebook page so supporters can get behind the fight save Sumo the malamute. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELLA Dapto woman is heading a push to save Sumo, the malamute expected to be put down today after killing a chicken and a baby goat.A Wollongong City Council panel decided Sumo’s fate last week based on his history and his owner Walter Duran’s lack of control.Sally Champion, 28, who has created a “Save Sumo” Facebook page, said she wanted to get the word out to put pressure on the council not to destroy the dog.”I couldn’t believe what they intend to do … the punishment does not fit the crime,” she said.Sumo attacked and killed a free-range chook early this year and was then classified as a dangerous dog.While Mr Duran was waiting to have that status reviewed before the courts, Sumo killed a baby goat, resulting in the destruction order.”I mean it’s not as if he has attacked a person … the issue here is the need for proper supervision and from what I saw today Bark Busters is prepared to offer free training,” she said.Since the story appeared in the Mercury on Monday, Sumo’s fate has generated a lively debate on the paper’s website.”I am finding the circumstances surrounding Sumo tragic and I believe it would be wrong to put Sumo to sleep,” one reader, known only as Sue, wrote.”I had never had anything to do with malamutes until my son bought his a few months ago and I am finding them to be an amazing breed around humans. Despite their size they are gentle giants, particularly near children.”But not all were in favour of saving Sumo’s skin.Paul Quinn wrote: “The dog has killed at least twice in the past five months yet the owner has tears only for his animal.”Of course, the dog should be put down, and the owner should be banned from owning dogs. People should need a licence to own animals.” Mr Duran, from Figtree, has admitted he is partly responsible for Sumo being in hot water and said yesterday he had been overwhelmed by community support.”Everywhere I go people are shocked to hear the news,” he said. “I’ve written to the (council) general manager, David Farmer to release Sumo from the terrible conditions he’s living in and to return him home until the matter can be determined by the court hearing on November 17.”
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Merola backs Illawarra Twenty20 skills

Illawarra players (from left) Graeme Batty, Dean Merola and Rob Fisher prepare for tonight’s Twenty20 clash with Sydney club Bankstown at North Dalton Park. Picture: GREG TOTMANIllawarra’s representative cricket scene has received a major boost with the announcement that tonight’s Twenty20 clash with Bankstown at North Dalton Park is set to become an annual fixture.A full-strength Bankstown line-up – which will include captain Danny Waugh, the brother of Australian greats Steve and Mark Waugh – are using the match as a warm-up for next week’s inaugural Sydney grade Twenty20 Cup.And Illawarra have taken to the challenge by announcing an experienced and in-form line-up.Corrimal all-rounder Dean Merola declared Illawarra ready to fire in the shortened format of the game.”Bankstown want to make this an annual fixture, which shows they’ve got a bit of respect for the standard of cricket in the area,” Merola said.”They’re a class unit and they’re taking this game seriously with the Twenty20 Cup to be played in Sydney next week.”But our side is going to be very competitive, there is more experience in this team, more than we might have picked in any other game.”And the Illawarra team is also suited to the Twenty20 format.”Illawarra’s line-up will include opening batsman Graeme Batty, who blasted a century for Corrimal in Sunday’s Country Cup victory over Wests.Keira’s Glenn Prouten, a former Sydney Northern Districts player, has been selected, as well as Helensburgh tearaway Mattise Treuberg, who played Sydney first grade at the age of 18 last season.”He’s sure to get their batsmen jumping around,” Merola said.Bankstown will play University of NSW, Randwick-Petersham and Sutherland in next week’s Twenty20 Cup first round, with the tournament winner of the Sydney to tour India later this season.
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600 Pillar jobs high priority

Mr Roozendaal.PROTECTING about 600 jobs at the Wollongong call centre of superannuation administration business Pillar will be central to any deal if a proposed sell-off of the state-owned business goes ahead.NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal would not confirm yesterday if the almost $70 million sale had been approved, to plug looming budget shortfalls, but admitted the sell-off had been under review.A spokesman told the Mercury a final announcement would not be made until Tuesday’s mini budget. But the spokesman said the safety of 600 jobs in Wollongong would be a “central element” of how any sale would be handled.”We are aware that Pillar is a considerable employer in Wollongong,” he said.”Protecting those jobs would be a prime consideration of the sale.”But Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell and Opposition spokesman for the Illawarra Greg Pearce question if it is the right time to sell and want a firmer job guarantee.”The Illawarra is a region where unemployment is already above the state average, so any loss of jobs would be a massive blow to the local economy,” Mr O’Farrell said yesterday.”The potential job losses couldn’t come at a worse time as the economy is entering choppy waters. “If the State Government proceeds with the sell-off, (Premier) Nathan Rees must do everything he can to ensure the call centre and its associated jobs remain in Wollongong.”Mr Pearce said Mr Rees must guarantee any sale proceeds are put back directly into the region’s infrastructure upgrades to boost economic growth. “Given the current turmoil on the financial markets, one has to wonder whether this is the best time to sell,” Mr Pearce said.Mr Rees has also confirmed the Government will sell off electricity retailer Integral Energy, along with Country Energy, EnergyAustralia and new generation development sites. “Previous commitments to retail employees about job security and future entitlements will remain in place,” he said at the weekend. Consumers would be protected by Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW price regulation until 2013 or until there was sufficient competition.
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