THE NSW government has had long enough to complete a business case for an extended light rail network in Newcastle and it’s time for answers.
That’s the message from the Shooters and Fishers Party, who say that 18 months after the government committed to the study in exchange for the party backing legislation to remove Newcastle’s heavy rail line, they want assurances the city isn’t being “dudded”.
Shooters MP Robert Brown said the party would raise the issue with the government in parliament.
“In terms of whether they’re going to fulfill their promises I guess it’s more of a wait and see at the moment,” he said.
“That will the subject of a question to the Premier, because by now they should have had that business case concluded.”
Mr Brown, who said he was pleased to see Mr Constance announce wire free light rail on Hunter Street, said he wasn’t sure of the status of the commitment but would be “making sure the bastards aren’t dudding people in Newcastle”.
The government agreed to the study in a deal with the Shooters in October 2015 to pass legislation to remove the heavy rail line.
It would look at the options for expanding the light rail network to places like Broadmeadow, Hunter Stadium, Adamstown and Mayfield.
The Newcastle Herald reported more than a year ago that the state’s transport department had begun investigations into the possibility of expanding the network, but during a visit to Newcastle this week, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the work was still progressing.
“There’s plenty of great points around the entire city where light rail can go and we want to get that right,” he said.
“We’re still working through that long-term transport master-plan.
“Transport are starting that process and we’ll be out later this year with our entire state plan but we need to get specific with it.
“In the future ministers will need to make the call about how you might build it and where you might build it to, but at the moment lets just get the first stage of the project down which is Hunter Street.”
But the Property Council of Australia’s Hunter Director, Andrew Fletcher, said it was “reasonable” to expect the business case would be completed sooner rather than later.
“There have been commitments made by this government to invest in extending the light rail network … so I think it’s reasonable for the community to expect the results of some of that planning to be, if not completed, very near to completion,” he said.
While the government has said it believes the line should be extended, Mr Constance has made it clear it is unlikely to happen anytime in the near future.
But Mr Fletcher said turning the system into a broader network, particularly extending into Broadmeadow, was essential to make it “sustainable”.
Broadmeadow ‘obvious’ choice for light rail extension
Mr Fletcher said Broadmeadow – identified in the government’s 20 year blueprint for development in the Hunter as a vital “strategic centre” was an obvious choice for any extension of the line.
“Our stated position is that we believe the next extension of light rail should run from Wickham to Broadmeadow … basically along Tudor and Belfords Streets,” he said.
In 2016 the government released a document outlining a blueprint for the future of the network which included nine options to extend the line.
Option “A” linked Wickham to Broadmeadow, with the network eventually extending out to Hunter Stadium, the John Hunter Hospital, Callaghan, Newcastle Airport, Glendale and, eventually, Merewether.