Police have formed Strike Force Tuohy as they continue proactive operations to actively prevent and disrupt illegal protests throughout NSW’s Hunter Valley rail freight network.
Newcastle City Police District and Police Transport Command have been dealing with ongoing protest activity which has affected commuter and coal trains.
Actions have included the placement of a car on the lines and protestors suspending themselves above the tracks in scaffolding or from power poles: moves slammed by the railway sector for not only putting the safety of train crews in great peril, but also forcing the cancellation of vital coal, and containerised grain and cotton services.
Officers have arrested almost 30 people, who have been charged with various trespass and rail disruption offences.
One of them, a 22-year-old serial climate activist, was this week sentenced to 12 months in prison for his part in the blockade . He will serve at least six months in jail.
Officers attached to Strike Force Tuohy will continue carrying out proactive patrols and targeting anyone engaging in suspicious behaviour.
Members of Police Rescue, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Public Order and Riot Squad and PolAir, as well as intelligence resources, will also assist as required.
Police and Emergency Services Minister, David Elliott, said police have increased security and surveillance along the rail corridor to prevent further disruption to commuter and freight trains in the area.
“This government will not tolerate protestors undermining commuter activities and causing significant damage to these local industries which employ people from across the region,” he said.
Northern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Peter McKenna, said police were targeting protestors as a priority and their activities would not be accepted.
“The actions of this group and individuals involved are placing lives at risk,” he said.
“Illegally entering rail corridors and expecting trains that are over 1.5km in length to stop for people placing themselves in front of them is outrageous and incredibly dangerous behaviour.
“We will continue to use the full force of the law to locate and arrest any persons involved in this criminal activity.”
Police will continue to work with Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) and other members of the coal supply network to prevent further disruptions.
Additional security, surveillance and lighting have also been instigated at high-risk access points.