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LIGHT rail should run on Hunter Street from Wickham, rather than Worth Place, the Property Council of Australia says in its submission to the Newcastle light rail Review of Environmental Factors.
And while the property council has identified at least 10 major building sites along the heavy rail corridor, it says in the submission that a 12-metre strip of “segregated road and landscaped cycleways” must be preserved the length of the corridor “as an east-west link across the city centre”.
Newcastle City Council, the Hunter Business Chamber and others have questioned the impact light rail will have on Hunter Street, but the property council has stuck to its 2014 view that the light rail should join Hunter Street at Bellevue Street on Bank Corner, rather than at Worth Place, east of Union Street, where the government proposes.
The property council submission says the government’s route “is a mistake” because it “represents marginal change to the West End’s urban design” and “impedes” the government’s plan to establish the new Newcastle CBD at the West End.
It also hinders any expansion of the light rail towards Broadmeadow. On this, the property council supports the government’s proposed extension corridor “A” to Broadmeadow and “D” to Mayfield.
It supports separated running because it made light rail “the first transport choice” by ensuring it was faster, safer and more reliable than mixed running. But it is opposed to the curb or “lip” the government had proposed for a raised track, saying “industry policy supports track embedded and installed level with the surrounding surface”.
As others have done, the property council is pushing the government to find an alternative to the old Wickham station site for the light rail stables and maintenance facility, saying “a bulky industrial structure” next to the station would “sterilise a large tract of prime harbourfront land”, degrade the look of the area and make it harder to expand the network.
If the government could not find an alternative stabling site within the existing light rail area it should build an interim facility until a permanent one was built somewhere along an expanded line.
It has also broken with UrbanGrowth on its plans to develop former railway land on Hunter Street opposite Darby Street, saying that site – to be known as “Darby Common” – should become a “place of relief and meeting for cyclist commuters and joyriders”, albeit with “a low rise building” with retail and cycle-related facilities.
Property council Hunter director Andrew Fletcher said Hunter Street was the best option because “the opportunities are not as great if you go down the corridor”.
“While we do have differences with what the government is proposing we do not support any further delays and we need to get on with the job,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said the government had not done a good job of explaining light rail’s benefits.
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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