Running light rail entirely in corridor a win-win

LOSE-LOSE: The author argues that running light rail down Hunter Street would adversely affect the university, business, traffic management and commuters.The increase of university student numbers in the city to 10000 is very welcome. However, the massive adverse impacts of trams in Hunter Street, as described by experts at Council Voice and in Cabinet Minute Document 71, as set out below, would remain, exacerbated by the additional numbers of students.

That the university may wish to build on the rail corridor, however, prompts serious consideration of a win-win solution; enabling Newcastle to have reasonable development, of reasonable height, in reasonable locations, without being saddled with the extremely adverse impacts of trams in Hunter Street.

The concept is for light rail to run, not in Hunter/Scott streets but in the rail corridor, underneath buildings. According to a professional engineering report from Transport Australia, Society of Engineers Australia, light rail could be implemented entirely in the rail corridor, much sooner than trams in Hunter Street and at significantly lower cost.

Council’s zoning power, which it still retains, is the key to whether Newcastle achieves this win-win solution of rail in the corridor or the lose-lose outcome of serious problems created by trams in Hunter Street. However, the current council rezoning resolution precludes implementation of light rail in the corridor. If rezoning proceeds without providing for light rail in the corridor, Newcastle will have lost forever the opportunity for the very best solution to those problems.

We strongly urge council to exercise its rezoning power by amending its submission to the rezoning process, to ensure that legislation and zoning instruments provide for rail transport to run entirely in the rail corridor to Newcastle Station, and for rail vehicles to be required to run underneath reasonable corridor development.The problems arising from trams in Hunter Street would be eliminated and the government would have higher capacity, faster, safer, partiallysegregated running of light rail on the corridor. Some of the adverse effects of running light rail in Hunter Street are:

space constraints eliminating the urban renewal initiatives proposed by council for Hunter Street such as cycling, trees, wider footpaths, outdoor dining and car parkingextreme traffic congestionproposed expansion to 10000 university students would soak up 100 per cent of proposed tram capacity.serious disruption to business in Hunter/Scott streets during relocation of underground services and constructionloss of street parkingan average street tram journey time of 17 minutes between Wickham and Pacific Park for which commuters will not accept, preferring to drive cars adding to traffic congestion and parking problemsadditional cost of about $100 million.These problems would adversely affect the university as a major user of Hunter Street, business, council’s traffic management, commuters and residents. All would benefit, if light rail were to run in the rail corridor. The evidence in favour of rail in the corridor is overwhelming and comes from transport experts, and even includes the government’s own transport experts.

We urge council, business organisations, the university, developers and government tosupportthat running light rail on the rail corridor, beneath buildings would be a better outcome, representing a win-win for all stakeholders compared with the lose-lose presently in front of us.

Alan Squire is convenor ofHunterTransport for Business Development

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