BUSES will be waiting at Hamilton station for each train service and passengers won’t have to pay twice for their trip, after Newcastle’s heavy rail is closed on Boxing Day, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has assured passengers.
The government has released its route map for the replacement shuttles that will run for more than two years while a new Wickham interchange is built and light rail installed as part of plans aimed at revitalising the city.
It promises a seat for every train traveller on airconditioned buses, operating every 10 minutes during peak periods and able to carry surfboards and other luggage into the city, for the usual price of a train fare. But the changes could add up to 15minutes to the journey for passengers usually bound for Newcastle railway station.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to sell 237 Wharf Road, a glass building on the harbour foreshore that houses staff from RailCorp, Transport for NSW and the Attorney-General and Justice Department.
A SHUTTLE bus service will run between Hamilton and Newcastle every 10 to 15 minutes under ‘‘interim’’ city transport arrangements that will be in place for at least two years while the heavy rail is truncated and light rail is installed.
The government estimates the new arrangements could add up to 15 minutes to journeys, but is expected to argue the benefits of the project will be greater and the delays more acceptable than Labor’s proposal to retain and slow down trains and install more level crossings in the city.
The bus shuttle will run from Boxing Day, December 26, when the heavy rail line is permanently closed at Wickham.
For an initial few days, until January 5, trains will cease at Broadmeadow to enable Hamilton station to be upgraded into a temporary interchange.
From then, according to long-awaited information the government has released, a bus will be waiting for each train at Hamilton.
Transport and Hunter Minister Gladys Berejiklian dubbed the arrangement a ‘‘big win for Maitland and Upper Hunter customers’’ compared with measures considered to stop trains both at Hamilton and Broadmeadow, which would have caused more inconvenience.
‘‘It is intended every customer will get a seat on a fleet of modern, fully accessible, airconditioned buses and that they can carry surfboards and other luggage on board,’’ she said.
Buses would run every 10 minutes during peak periods, and every 15 minutes off-peak, to connect with all trains.
The shuttle would leave Newcastle 25 minutes before a train departed Hamilton, ensuring a ‘‘hassle-free connection’’, Ms Berejiklian said.
Stops with weather-protection shelters would be located near Wickham, Civic and Newcastle stations and at Queens Wharf.
The government-owned State Transit Authority will run the shuttle after winning the tender, but there would be no impact on the frequency and routes of services it already runs, under Newcastle Buses, in the city. The government will cover the cost of bus shelters, usually a council responsibility.
Passengers would pay their usual train fare.
Opal card holders could tap on and off, or paper tickets for the train could be bought.
‘‘We have planned the interim arrangements to minimise disruption and make it easy to move between trains and buses,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘‘We will also ensure there is plenty of room at Hamilton for taxis and cars to pick up and drop off customers.’’
After the Wickham interchange is finished in late 2016, buses would run from there instead.
Extra buses will run for New Year’s Eve and for the Asian Cup.
Printed timetables for the shuttle, though, are still in the pipeline. The government said they would be available well before the work starts. An estimated completion date for light rail – and the end of the shuttle bus – also remains elusive, but the government still expects to start work on that part of the project late 2015.