Third light rail option for Newcastle on table

THE proposed light rail system for Newcastle would cost twice as much to run down Hunter Street than the existing rail corridor, the state government has revealed.

More light rail details were released last week, when the state government launched its "Revitalising Newcastle" website and hosted invitation-only sessions for industry and large business owners.

The NSW government also revealed it was looking at a third light rail option that would run along Hunter Street then divert at the mall.

A spokeswoman for the state government said costings for the three options had not been finalised and would not be made public until after the consultation period had ended.

She said cost estimates made by the state government were based on assumptions, as the project's engineers had only just been appointed.

On-street car spaces might need to be removed if the Hunter Street option gets the go-ahead, while the proposed Hunter Street cycleway would also need to be moved.

The state government will use money from a 98-year lease deal of Newcastle port to pay for the light rail.

The state government has said $340 million made from the lease will be directed towards Newcastle, in addition to the $120 million the government has already committed to the Hunter Street project.

COMMUNITY FORUMS

OPEN community forums on the light rail plans will be held at Newcastle City Hall this Saturday, March 8 at 10.30am and next Tuesday, March 11 at 6pm.

SMALL BUSINESS FORUM

JUST 21 people from the business community attended a last-minute forum called by state government on its light rail plans for Newcastle.

Many business owners in the Newcastle CBD were dismayed by the lack of notice given, while others were upset that they had been ignored.

The media was also barred from reporting on the event, which was held last Friday.

One Newcastle small business owner, Bobbie Antonic, of Newcastle Skate, attended without an  invitation  to find out  how the changes would affect her.

Ms Antonic said she was disappointed by the lack of information provided at the forum. ‘‘They didn’t really get into the important stuff – it was more like a token meeting,’’ she said. 

‘‘They didn’t want to talk about a cost-benefit analysis of the three routes; and they revealed they still haven’t done any traffic modelling. The whole thing just seemed rushed.’’

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