A railway station should be built alongside the new Maitland Hospital to provide safe and accessible access, transport advocates say.
The first sod on the $470 million hospital was turned by Health Minister Brad Hazzard in January, with major work to begin this year for an expected opening in 2022.
The new hospital will be about a 1.5-kilometre walk from Victoria Street station, and more than 2.5 kilometres from Metford station if Chlemsford Drive is followed.
Maitland’s current hospital is about 800 metres from Telarah station.
While the council is split on the idea, transport advocacy group Two More Trains for Singleton says “designing a new station and effective public transport links” could “prevent mistakes made at John Hunter Hospital”.
“Ensuring the new Maitland Hospital is easily accessible to staff, patients and visitors is a key part of the planning process of the new hospital,” spokesperson Martin Fallding said.
“The hospital building is located within 300 metres of the existing railway line, yet the current proposal expects many staff, patients and visitors to travel two kilometres by bus from Victoria Street station. The [new] site is the most rail accessible major hospital site in NSW."
The group made a submission to the NSW government in 2017 proposing the station, asking for the hospital design to provide efficient public transport access.
But with the government appearing to have baulked at the idea and construction on the hospital about to begin, the group has issued a renewed call for the station to be investigated.
“Regional land use planning and transport objectives are to promote public transport accessibility and increase public transport travel”, Mr Falding said.
“Many new hospital users will travel long distances from the Upper Hunter, and train travel is safer.”
On the same day, Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison said she supported a new station but her priority was ensuring the hospital was built first.
A Health Infrastructure spokesperson said the hospital had "been planned and developed in consultation with Maitland City Council, Roads and Maritime Services and Transport NSW".
"The new hospital will be connected to existing public transport services, including a new bus stop on site providing access to surrounding transport hubs including Victoria Street train station. [It] also fronts the existing Metford Road, where vehicle and pedestrian access ways will provide direct access to the hospital main entry.
"These access ways will link to both Metford Road and Fieldsend Street, including the new foot path/cycle path to the upgraded Victoria Street train station."
Three additional return train services will run daily from Singleton to Newcastle from early 2020, which Two More Trains for Singleton had long advocated for.