Huge cost; transport disadvantage; oxymoron – Media Release 23/12/2013

The use of $470 million to install 2.6 km of light rail in Newcastle ($180 million per km) would be grossly irresponsible even if it could result in any transport advantage.

The light rail route alternatives being advanced will provide absolutely no benefit, but will guarantee a negative impact for Newcastle’s prospects into the future.

Cities need mass transit for success, the most advantage being in heavy rail provision. Newcastle is fortunate in having an intercity link to Sydney, Central Coast, Maitland and the Hunter regional communities direct to its heart and to the beach (4 minutes from Wickham to Newcastle Station). This long haul form of transport cannot be “replaced” by a mode designed for short distance trips within an urban area. They are two different commodities.

Truncation at Wickham will threaten the status of Newcastle as the major regional city and cause it to fail as has occurred in other cities which have removed heavy rail lines. In the case of some, including Auckland  the heavy rail line was re-built at great expense.

This waste of scarce infrastructure money will anger other Hunter communities whose much needed projects will remain unfunded.

The project could be a dud, with the money down the drain. Many light rail installations worldwide, have failed, including  Ottawa, Seattle, Denver and many others listed on the internet.

The truncation at Wickham will cause many headaches, a major one being that it will ensure a loss of patronage of at least 20% through the necessity to interchange causing inconvenience and delay.

The transfer itself will be awkward, involving a long hike across Stewart Avenue to board the magical light rail. The inconvenience and delay will be massive, with a variation in time of arrival dependent on whether you get across Stewart Avenue in time to reach the first of the waiting toy trains. If you are a small person coming from one of the rear carriages you’ll definitely be late for work!

The absence of an actual plan, including details of cost, type of rolling stock, how passengers would transfer, patronage projections and fare structures mean that no cost/benefit analysis has been possible.

“Without a mechanism to assess the pros and cons, this whole concept remains a thought bubble, emanating from a local politician manipulated by the developer lobby”. According to Save Our Rail President, Joan Dawson.

The prize is the Newcastle Station precinct, which is hived off in both options to conform to the “Approved Scheme” of the Hunter Development Corporation (confirmed September 2013”). This sets out the value of Newcastle station for development, and a 2004 report by consultants, GHD  talks of 300 units. Picture those on top of the grand old heritage building!

The effects on people living in expensive units who will lose views  and lifestyle amenity  including those adjacent to Pacific Park have not been considered. They may be dismayed to have clanking trams under their windows, concreted areas replacing green space  and  noisy crowds of surf board riders going past their front doors.

There has been no community consultation on the decision to install light rail in Newcastle and the only people involved in this latest piece of political spin have been reflections of vested interested developers.

This is a choice between a bad decision or a worse decision and now they say they will consult!

What sort of Christmas Grinch has this Government turned out to be?

For further information or comment please contact:-
Joan Dawson
President Save Our Rail NSW Inc
Mobile 0408 618 198