Hunter St running light rail and the award winning Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy are like oil and water, they simply don’t mix. Why you ask? Well, there is simply not enough room in Hunter St.
You see, a central element of the NURS is a boulevard-like transformation of Hunter St to include broadened, greened footpaths and a cycleway to entice people to visit and shop in the CBD.
On the other hand the Baird government’s plan is to run a tram down the middle of both Hunter and the narrower Scott St, which if delivered spells the death knell for the NURS plan.
Prove it you say. Well there is the fact that just before the light rail route was announced in December 2013 the McCloy-led Council voted against the progression of the Hunter St works proposed in the NURS. It clearly understood what the experts who advised the authors of the Transport for NSW report to the Cabinet did; that the cycleway and other works would need to give way to the tramway. For that reason Document 71 declared that a superior urban renewal outcome is achieved by keeping rail in the corridor.
Just as the UrbanGrowth/GPT high rise plan has been hard to swallow for the residents who point to the NURS in support of maintaining the integrity of the heritage precinct in the CBD, the implementation of the Baird light rail plan would ultimately leave a bad taste in the mouth of small business owners, residents and commuters alike.
(The Newcastle Herald and the Sydney Morning Herald have the full “cabinet minute copy 71” documents available here and also via newspaper article “Rail document found in Owen office: Labor“.)