State transport study 'ignores' needs of region

NEWCASTLE City Council has blasted the NSW government’s long-term transport masterplan in a draft submission that warns the study is too focused on Sydney and ignores regional areas.

The submission, which will be debated by councillors on Tuesday, envisages buses running every 15minutes, park-and-ride stations between Newcastle and Maitland and the retention of historic rail corridors for public transport.

It says lack of patronage of public transport is mainly because services are too infrequent, and calls for the establishment of a dedicated Lower Hunter transport authority.

While acknowledging that uncertainty about the Newcastle inner-city rail line ‘‘has at times detracted from more broad-based action to improve public transport’’, the council’s submission does not take a side in the rail debate.

The council expressed frustration at the failure of successive governments to release a Hunter-specific transport plan, despite a procession of different studies and reports going back to 1995.

The council says the Lower Hunter’s transport needs are very different from those in Sydney.

‘‘The [masterplan] discussion paper presents NSW as a dichotomy of metropolitan Sydney [on which it is heavily focused] and regional areas.

‘‘While the importance of Sydney and the region’s importance to the NSW economy are acknowledged, the draft NSW Long Term Transport Masterplan does not pay sufficient attention to regional issues,’’ the submission argues.

The council’s submission says Newcastle bus routes are ‘‘too circuitous and infrequent to attract additional patrons’’ and recommends daytime services operate every 15minutes.

‘‘To be attractive, public transport has to be competitive with car travel, particularly in the time spent travelling,’’ the submission says.

The government’s discussion paper said additional services should be introduced only if population growth created extra demand, but the council disagreed.

‘‘A more proactive approach is needed in the Lower Hunter, with introduction of frequent services on key strategic routes, and active promotion of these services.’’

The council argues that patronage can be increased by marketing public transport through the region.

The council also raises concern about the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor project and the potential for longer waiting times at the Adamstown level crossing.

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