Newcastle light rail and Cabinet deliberations

Apologies for another light rail column, but I can’t escape the feeling we may be sleepwalking into a planning disaster, and I don’t want to have to say “I did nothing” if someone comes up to me in 20 years time and asks me how all of this happened, writes Ian Kirkwood at the Newcastle Herald.

It is set to result in major and probably permanent changes to the way people move around the city, and while I’d love to say they are good changes, I am far from convinced that this is the case.

Travel times for cars and light rail alike would be longer than if the light rail went on the corridor. The removal of car-parking spaces, loading zones and taxi ranks would “impact businesses on an ongoing basis”.

And to top it off, the combined or hybrid option had “higher costs, greater delivery risks and greater impacts on businesses during construction” than using the available corridor.

Based on a “bespoke demand model” that included ticket price, the removal of the city’s “fare free” bus zone and the likelihood that urban renewal would bring more jobs and residents to the city, the government’s planners predicted a light rail “patronage forecast” of 1800 trips a day. Yep. A day. Not an hour. A day. And given that a trip in one direction usually entails a return trip in the other, that means the government was expecting about 900 actual passengers.

On the information provided, the hybrid light rail could easily cost $250 million, not counting the cost of the interchange. That works out at about $275,000 a passenger, and that’s just to build the thing, not to operate it. No wonder they wouldn’t release the business case.

Read the full article at the Newcastle Herald.