Response to light rail extension plan

The NSW Government today announced a CBD transport interchange at Wickham, as originally planned, instead of Hamilton or Broadmeadow. The new interchange would connect the existing heavy rail to a planned light rail track which is now intended to run as far as Pacific Park in Newcastle East.

This plan is bad for traffic congestion in the CBD and thanks to the extension of the light rail further east wastes more money than already forecast. It wastes critical money that could be far better spent on more important projects such as the Adamstown rail gates, the Glendale interchange, the art gallery and a police station for Wallsend. I also believe we would get much better value for money and improved public transport for the people of Newcastle by improving the transport systems we already have.

Traffic Crisis
There’s already a huge amount of traffic congestion around the suggested site at Wickham with arterial roads hitting Hunter street in close proximity to the interchange. This development will make the situation worse not better. It’s irresponsible to consider light rail services which  “would run at least every 10 minutes” when the buses are already struggling to stay on time dealing with high traffic volumes along Hunter street.

Cost Blowout
How much more is this going to cost? The government is remaining tight lipped. How many more important Hunter projects could now be completed with the revised cost figure. Also, why is such a large amount of money being focussed on such a small section of the CBD. Brad Hazzard doesn’t seem to have a handle on the current situation in our city. Has our esteemed Planning Minister ever been to Newcastle?

“Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said the light rail would connect the city to its beloved beaches and activity hotspots, including Honeysuckle and Hunter Street.”

Since when were Honeysuckle and Hunter Street “activity Hotspots”? I’m pretty sure Darby Street, Beaumont Street, Kotara and Charlestown are some of the actual hotspots. On top of which, what about our suburbs? What about places like Wallsend – there are fantastic things happening out there too and there’s also real need of government funds out there. Why are we spending hundreds of millions to redesign one small stretch of land through the CBD when we still have up to 20 minute wait for drivers at the Adamstown rail gates?

Fix What We Already Have

There are already buses that run out to the beach. Those bus routes, like all Newcastle bus routes, are in dire need of a review. There was one promised in 2013 and we ended up receiving a bus review lite, tweaking a couple of services to fit in with the new train timetable. What we really need in 2014 is a fullscale bus review to make them useable.

This new plan will be very convenient for people who live in Wickham and want to go to the beach. It’s going to be a pain in the neck for just about everyone else. A pain because Hunter street will be more congested, our major State funding from the proceeds of the port sale wasted and an opportunity squandered to improve the transport system for all Hunter residents, not just those living in the CBD between Wickham and the beach.

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