Ian Kirkwood writes in the Newcastle Herald that Paul Broad said on Friday and again on Tuesday that he did not believe that light rail was the best option for Newcastle.
His proposal, which could be described as a ‘‘wait and see’’ approach, involves building a big and comprehensive interchange at Wickham – using The Store site as well – and then waiting to see how new developments, including the University of Newcastle campus and the new court building, impact on the movement of people through the city.
If it looks like light rail is the ticket, then go for light rail. But if not, Broad recommends buses – perhaps of differing sizes – to take people east of the interchange.
My fear, as I told him, was that this could result in the worst of all outcomes: a truncated line and an interchange with little or no extra CBD spending despite the windfall $1.7billion delivered from the Port of Newcastle lease when only $700million was initially expected.
Broad bases his opposition to building on the truncated rail line with the philosophical belief that ‘‘you never give up a corridor’’. He cites historical examples of corridor sales in Sydney that were later bought back again at great expense. I’m not sure the Sydney model applies here, because the rail corridor is simply one of four east-west connections, along with Honeysuckle Drive/Wharf Road, Hunter Street and King Street. Also, the corridor’s status as one of the few parts of the peninsula not subjected to shallow underground mining only adds to its development value if it is no longer needed for transport. Broad says he ‘‘gets’’ that argument, but worries we will look back in 25years and say ‘‘why did we ever build on that?’’
But the corridor, and the broader Newcastle revitalisation, are only part of the picture as far as Broad’s dissatisfaction is concerned.
On Tuesday, he lamented the lack of community and government interest in building the long-awaited Hexham to Fassifern rail by-pass – long considered a key to developing Newcastle as a container port, while getting freight trains out of Adamstown and other suburban areas.