Business owners query light rail route

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp meeting with concerned business owners in Newcastle on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp meeting with concerned business owners in Newcastle on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HUNTER Street business owners have banded together to protest against the proposed light rail route they say would leave the already struggling precinct in ‘‘‘dire straits’’.  

Passmores College chief executive Duncan Macfarlane said pedestrian traffic had drastically dropped since the truncation of the heavy rail at Hamilton.

Mr Macfarlane said the construction of light rail along Hunter Street would compound the problem and urgent intervention was needed to reverse the situation.

‘‘Speed is of the essence in changing the momentum,’’ Mr Macfarlane said. ‘‘It’s like a family here... I have great concern for some of the businesses... the area is in dire straits at the moment.’’

Other retailers fear they will lose customers as the light rail will reduce parking spaces.  

‘‘It’s not a wide boulevard that can accommodate a two-way rail line and parking, said Elles & Beaux owner Elizabeth Monie.

Her clothing boutique is one of a cluster of wedding services that attract customers from Dubbo Armidale, Coffs Harbour and Yamba.

‘‘Their biggest gripe is that there’s no parking on Hunter Street,’’ Ms Monie said.

‘‘To me it doesn’t make sense to affect our business on Hunter Street... why can’t they use the corridor that is already there.’’

Labor member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said shopkeepers along the Hunter Street had raised concerns.

“Peak hour traffic will crawl, parking opportunities will be reduced and deliveries will be delayed due to the construction,’’  Mr Crakanthorp said.

The government’s own plan found that Hunter Street was not the best route for the light rail because it limited city renewal projects such as outdoor parking, footpath, green space, bike lanes and parking, Mr Crakanthorp said.

Frontline Hobbies owner Colin Scott said he was ‘‘deeply concerned’’ Hunter Street retailers had not been consulted on plans to run light rail through the shopping strip.

‘‘[Frontline Hobbies] is probably the largest retailer in the city and no one has come to see me,’’ Mr Scott said.

‘‘I’m deeply concerned people are not giving us the opportunity to give our point of view. We need to be consulted –  it does affect out livelihood.’’