VETERAN Maitland councillor Ray Fairweather is calling for five Lower Hunter councils to co-operate to create a co-ordinated, light-rail network to transport the large numbers of people expected to move into the region in coming years.
Mr Fairweather, who retired from the Maitland City Council at this year’s local government election, said if a network was not built, the region would face the same, if not worse, traffic congestion being experienced now.
‘‘I am looking to the future,’’ Mr Fairweather said.
There were about 600,000 people now in the five council areas, he said, while the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy planned for an influx of more than 150,000 people in coming years.
Mr Fairweather wants the Newcastle, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Maitland councils to work as one to create a form of public transport that is environmentally friendly and, what he says, is a cheaper alternative to roads.
‘‘In the short term the Hunter Expressway will ease congestion but we will face the same problem in 10 years’ time because of growth.’’
A priority was to link coalfields towns, such as Kurri Kurri, to Williamtown airport. Mr Fairweather also wants an investigation into opening closed rail infrastructure.
He said light rail would be ideal to service the proposed new town of Huntlee, near Branxton and planned expansion at Lochinvar and Farley, while the expanding residential area of Aberglasslyn-Oakhampton, on the northern rail line, had no rail station.