PARTS of Hunter Street will be closed to motorists until at least the end of 2018 as the state government ramps up work on the Newcastle Light Rail project.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced on Thursday that work will begin in September on the Hunter Street section of the 2.7 kilometre track, thanking Newcastle residents in advance for their patience during a period of “intensive, disruptive” construction work.
“I would ask people to think of the bigger picture,” he said.
“We have one very clear aim; to get in and out as quickly as we can [so that] we’ll have trains on tracks in early 2019.”
The work will see Hunter Street closed between Auckland and Darby Street from September until the end of 2017, before construction progressively makes its way up Hunter and Scott Streets.
Private contractor Downer EDI will complete the work in 10 “curbside to curbside” zones.
That means the job will be finished three months quicker – the government says at the beginning of 2019 – but with more traffic disruption.
It means that thousands of motorists will be diverted down King Street, Honeysuckle Drive and Wharf Road during the construction period, including the 400 bus services that travel up and down Hunter Street everyday, including 40 per hour in the morning peak.
While the closures will place extra pressure on the city’s traffic congestion, Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel said some of that would be eased by the construction of a new road between Hunter Street and Honeysuckle Drive at Worth Place.
Business owners on Hunter Street have raised concerns about loss of business while the work is carried out, but Mr Constance said they were “set to thrive once this project has been complete”.
He said the government had learned from its other light rail projects that the disruption was worth it in the long run to reduce construction times and give more certainty over time frames.
It came on the same day the government announced a plan to buy more buses across the state will deliver about 100 extra weekly services in the Hunter, including more runs between Newcastle and its airport.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in Singleton on Thursday for a community cabinet meeting, revealed this week the government would buy 170 new buses in a boost to the fleet.
The extra services will run on routes such as the 130 from Fingal Bay to Newcastle via Nelson Bay and Anna Bay, the 166 from Cessnock and Kurri Kurri to Stockland Green Hills and the 269 from Toronto to Charlestown.