SOMETHING disappeared from one of Newcastle’s most notorious bottlenecks on Wednesday, and it wasn’t just the traffic.
Morning peak hour motorists had to look twice as they passed through the now-abandoned Stewart Avenue rail gates. Gone were the rail tracks, buried beneath freshly laid bitumen.
For the first time in decades, motorists passed through the intersection without the usual rattle of rail tracks beneath them.
The work was carried out by contractors for Transport NSW on Tuesday night, and complies with the court injunction which prevents the actual removal of the rail tracks until the state government’s Supreme Court appeal is heard in March.
The move, however, will no doubt appear as a provocative one for those campaigning to have heavy rail services into the city restored.
It’s a similar story along the old rail corridor into Newcastle where the state government is preparing to open five new crossings which will link Hunter Street with the Honeysuckle precinct and the city’s harbourfront.
Workers continued to pour sand and soil over the tracks at Steele Street and Wolfe Street on Wednesday in preparation for the new links.
A spokesperson for Transport NSW said laying of the bitumen ‘‘will make it easier and smoother for vehicles to travel over’’.
‘‘Laying bitumen across Stewart Avenue does not breach the court injunction as the existing railway tracks, ballast and sleepers will not be removed as part of the work,’’ she said.
Work on the five pedestrian crossings – at Steele Street, Kuwumi Place, Worth Place, Wolfe Street and Perkins Street – will be finished within the next few months, she said.
In regards to the temporary interchange at Hamilton, the spokesperson said things were ‘‘going well’’.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive officer Kristen Keegan said she was ‘‘pleased to see significant progress on the interim transport solution for Newcastle’’.
‘‘It is great to see the construction of a series of pedestrian crossings on the old corridor and the recently completed works associated with Stewart Avenue crossing,’’ she said.
‘‘Of course, the complete lack of transport ‘chaos’ as espoused by some parties is of no surprise to the majority of the Hunter community. Let’s get on with the job of making this city great. It is heartening to see works under way.’’