Managing change in the city | Andrew Fletcher

LOOK AND LEARN: Light rail construction is under way in Sydney and Newcastle is taking notes on how to minimise the impact on city life.

LOOK AND LEARN: Light rail construction is under way in Sydney and Newcastle is taking notes on how to minimise the impact on city life.

Work has taken me to Sydney more than usual over the past month. During that time, I’ve had the chance to observe the delivery of light rail infrastructure along George Street.

Firstly, they appear to be going day and night. Clearly, the choice has been made to undertake more intense periods of construction activity to reduce overall disruption to the city and lessen the burden on business.

Yet, despite the pockets of construction, the first thing you notice is how much more pedestrian friendly the city has become.

The second thing to notice is how much more pleasant the environment has become. There is less pollution of all kinds – visual, noise and air. Of course the program has created some disruption and inconvenience – any infrastructure project will – but it hasn’t been all bad and the sky hasn’t fallen.

Which brings me to my next observation – the NSW Government and the operators of Sydney Light Rail are throwing huge resources at the problem. An army of reflective overhauls patrol George Street at all hours to provide safety and guidance. New way-finding signage and message boards help people navigate the construction zones.

Behind-the-scenes, a range of resources and tools have been deployed to keep the community engaged and the city flowing. They include reference groups for community and business, along with a library of planning and environmental documents. They also include the ability for anybody – with a tap on their smartphone – to access the latest construction notifications, temporary cyclist diversions and road closures.

This is the type of resourcing Newcastle deserves – on a level commensurate with the Sydney CBD light rail network construction. Speedy construction and access to information will be the keys to minimising the impact on city life.

Andrew Fletcher is the Property Council of Australia’s Hunter director 

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