HUNTER commuters are turning their backs on ‘‘inconvenient’’ rail replacement buses in favour of their cars, according to a Greens MP visiting the region on Thursday to speak to residents affected by the rail line truncation.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi said data suggested public transport patronage along the rail corridor had dropped by up to 50per cent since the Newcastle, Civic and Wickham railway stations were closed and buses were introduced to replace trains.
“The loss of the heavy rail in Newcastle has absolutely crippled public transport use in the city,’’ Dr Faruqi said.
“As predicted, when people are forced to interchange public transport modes they will switch off from public transport.
‘‘There’s no real integration between the Hamilton trains and replacement buses, and people’s journeys are getting longer.
‘‘It’s no wonder people are getting back into their cars.’’
Dr Faruqi asked Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance for patronage figures for buses operating between Hamilton and Newcastle.
She said the answer – 65,000 customer trips a month – was equal to 2167 trips a day in a 30-day month.
Dr Faruqi said information collected in preparation for the Light Rail project revealed that on an average weekday, 2398 alighted from heavy rail at Wickham, Civic and Newcastle and 2266 passengers boarded west-bound heavy rail services.
This equalled 4664 passengers either boarding or alighting from trains at the three now-closed stations.
A spokesperson for Mr Constance said patronage data fluctuated depending on the time of year and the way that it was collected.
“The NSW government is getting on with the job of revitalising the Newcastle CBD, delivering a new transport interchange at Wickham and a light rail network,’’ the spokesperson said.
“We have always said there will be some inconvenience while this major project is under construction, but the end result will transform the way people move around.
“The truncation of the rail line has already made a difference to pedestrian connectivity in the Newcastle city centre, opening up the CBD to the foreshore and boosting urban amenity.
“We are not going to hold Newcastle back,’’ the spokesperson said.