Newcastle-based planner and urban designer Stacey Brodbeck writes in her Newcastle Herald opinion piece:
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many try and point out the shortcomings of a shiny government project – those that hold the power usually get their way.
Yet sometimes time reveals the truth – and those that choose to ignore a tsunami of professional advice should be held to account when it does.
Take the Sydney Monorail, which was built despite resistance from many planners and design professionals. … Who apart from the odd tourist would want to use it?
The original number of users was predicted to be 12 million each year. In reality it turned out to be more like four million.
So now to Newcastle, where the parallels to the current light rail proposal are so similar it’s eerie.
The monorail cost approximately $130 million (in 2016 dollars) for 3.6km. Newcastle’s light rail has been allocated $500 million for around 2km (apparently around $126 million has already been spent).
Figures are rubbery but the monorail carried around 1500 people an hour, with Newcastle’s light rail predicted to carry around 300.
Like the monorail, the light rail links poorly to the existing transport systems and it is very likely that it will be quicker to walk.
Many planners and design professionals, as well as business owners, have strongly voiced their concerns that the project will be a lemon.
But we won’t just be left with a track no one uses, we will also lose a large amount of parking on Hunter and King streets and still there will be no space for trees or cycle paths.
Almost every relevant professional group is saying that they think the current proposal has significant flaws.