Direct rail access between the central business districts of two major cities is the Holy Grail of intercity rail travel. It’s what governments around the world aspire to. But NSW’s Baird Government is planning to rip up two and a half kilometres of the Newcastle rail line between Wickham and Newcastle station, forcing intercity and Hunter Valley travellers to change to a promised light rail service if they want to access the city’s historic central business district.
The plan is to add the railway corridor land to the narrow strip of land between the rail line and the Hunter River for high-rise redevelopment. Essentially, the government wants to put $460 million of the proceeds from the sale of the port of Newcastle towards a very expensive second-rate transport solution so they can gift the land to their developer friends.
In this case, replacing the existing heavy rail, with its seamless access right into the businesses, attractions, and accommodation of the historic business district with light rail just doesn’t stack up.
It’s a classic NSW example of the almighty developer dollar corrupting urban planning.