Opinion | Council in box seat to keep light rail in corridor

IMPACT: By running light rail in the corridor, Hunter Street would avoid extreme traffic congestion and disruption to business, the author says.

IMPACT: By running light rail in the corridor, Hunter Street would avoid extreme traffic congestion and disruption to business, the author says.

With the rezoning proposal for the rail corridor going on public exhibition soon and council retaining control over zoning, there is an opportunity for  the community, government and council to avoid the very serious adverse impacts of trams in Hunter Street, by having the rezoning proposal amended so as to require light rail to run in the rail corridor to Newcastle Station underneath buildings.

The government so far has proposed trams running in Hunter Street to enable development on the corridor. The government could not proceed with that development without securing council approval for a rezoning to permit it.

Our proposal is that reasonable development can take place on the corridor with light rail running underneath buildings. Accordingly there would be no need for trams in Hunter Street. This will enable development objectives to be achieved, light rail to be implemented sooner and for less cost than trams in Hunter Street. 

There would be no conflict between council and Government about such an amended rezoning as the objectives  of both would be achieved as would the objectives of Hunter Street businesses, commuters, students and the community.

Importantly, Newcastle would avoid severe disruption to business – as experienced in Sydney – during relocation of underground services and construction of light rail in Hunter Street.

Likewise, the problems of extreme traffic congestion and parking difficulties would be avoided.

Council, which retains power over zoning, is in a position to take the lead to ensure the city is not saddled with the adverse impact of trams in Hunter Street. 

The government would achieve its objectives of development on the corridor and a safe reliable light rail system in its own dedicated  corridor.

The Engineers Australia study demonstrates that light rail in the corridor would be implemented sooner and for less cost than trams in Hunter Street, so there  would be no cost or time penalty.

There is room on the corridor for Market Street Lawn and light rail tracks.

Affordable housing needs to be explained but could be built over the light rail lines as could the proposed university corridor extension.

The catchment area for trams in Hunter Street and for light rail in the corridor is identical, as are the destinations, so light rail in the corridor would take people to where they wanted to go.

Visiting Professor Bruce McFarling has demonstrated using criteria developed by the Property Council that, in respect of activation of Hunter Street, light rail in the corridor would outperform trams in Hunter Street on every criterion.

Council would achieve its commendable urban renewal initiatives of trees, cycling, wider footpaths, footpath dining and car parking in Hunter Street. 

Council would not have to bear the responsibility for and expense of dealing with the extreme traffic congestion, parking issues and disruption to business caused by running trams in Hunter Street.

The community and businesses can help secure these beneficial outcomes by stipulating in submissions that they want the council to amend the rezoning so that light rail is required to run on the rail corridor under buildings.

Alan Squire is the convenor of Hunter Transport for Business Development

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