An amazing rant. Not only do you attack me personally you seem to forget what you are arguing. I made the point that replacing heavy rail with light rail is common. I did not say the reasons are the same in Newcastle. The reasons for doing so vary from place to place and are often numerous. Of course the reasons for doing so in Newcastle will not be identical to other places around the world. Where did I say they were?
Whatever else you might be, Northern Flyer, you cannot possibly be a credible
"Half a brain"? "Carpetbagger"? I have considerable technical and practical in Urban Design and renewal. Newcastle's biggest advantage into the future is it's waterfront location. Having a heavy railway barrier through the middle of it all is about the worse thing you could do from an urban design prospective. Therefore, I must fit into the category of people you consider to have less than "half a brain".
I wasn't suggesting that Newcastle needs to build an underground link from the Wickham terminus to Newcastle Station but merely pointing out the folly of closing the existing line which up until now has already provided that link into the CBD. Remember, we're not just talking about current day operations, but the potential for future growth. As Newcastle grows, I have no doubt that future generations of Novocastrians will regret the decision to truncate the line. The myth being peddled by the carpetbagger developer lobby, including HDC, that the rail line is holding back development is a complete furphy. Anyone with half a brain knows that it's all about getting their hands on the rail corridor for development which isn't undermined. If the government was genuinely concerned about opening up the CBD to the waterfront, then they would retain the railway corridor as parkland. I wouldn't hold my breath though.
It is a branch line that stops at Newcastle and would never be extended. In the last full year of operation, the average load into Newcastle Station was 11. No where in the world would you spend $1 billion to build a tunnel so that 11 passengers would not have to change from a train to a tram for 2km. Removing heavy rail in the inner city and replacing it with light rail is happening all around the world. History tells us that every city is different and has different transport requirements. It's about building better cities, not train spotting nostalgia.
In the early 20th Century, all Sydney suburban trains terminated at Central. Passengers then had to transfer to trams to complete their journey into the Northern CBD. Trams up and down George St, Pitt St, Castlereagh St and Elizabeth St to Circular Quay weren't enough. People wanted direct train services into the CBD proper without having to change and hence the birth of the city underground railway. What's so different about Newcastle? The lessons of history can't be ignored.
cIt depends what you want from light rail. If it is about running the last 1.5km as quick as possible you use the corridor. If it is about activating Hunter Street and freeing up land for public domain at the eastern end, you put it in Hunter Street. Not politics, just good urban planning.
And then there were none.There might be no trains but they should be able to see the merit of using the corridor rather than mess with Hunter street.
The heads up their arses politics is frustrating.
Your statement that 'removing heavy rail in the inner city and replacing it with light rail is happening all around the world' is total fiction and has no credibility whatsoever. Give us some examples.
I have no problem with the light rail concept per se, but not as an extension of the heavy rail service into the CBD. It's primary purpose should be to service the main public transport trunk routes into the CBD, such as Swansea to the CBD, if in fact it is warranted, although I have my doubts. As far as I'm aware, we've yet to see the business case for the light rail as proposed, and I would be amazed if it showed a positive outcome. I doubt if the light rail proposal will ever see the light of day.
As things stand, the current CBD will just become another dormitory residential centre along with other suburban centres and Newcastle will no longer have a "CBD". It will be soulless.
Light rail fiction? Is not the St Kilda and Port Melbourne lines examples of heavy rail being replaced by light rail. Same goes for Croydon in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool..the list goes on. Convert old heavy railways to light rail and often extending them on street running is one of the most common implementation of light rail around the world.
Unless you fill in the harbour or build 50 storey high rise from one end of town to the other, there is never going to be the sort of demand for heavy rail, particularly from the two lines that service Newcastle. In fact, most of the commercial and residential growth will be around Wickham, so heavy rail, for the most part, still exists in the CBD.
If you think creating a mixed use city of residential, commercial, retail and recreation will create a "soul less" city, you are at complete odds with modern urban planners.
Your arguments are the sort that finally killed heavy rail. Save Our Rail kept dragging out the same narrow minded train spotter arguments and finally the government had enough and the rest is history.
transport analyst. Your reputation as such would never survive these postings.
A branch line that stops at Newcastle? That is a ridiculous distortion of the
rail traffic patterns in the lower Hunter valley (excluding the coal lines,
which are clearly irrelevant to the case). The great majority of train movements
on the main lines between Maitland / Lake Macquarie and the Woodville triangle
originate or terminate to the east (Hamilton, formerly Newcastle). The pathetic
three platform terminus proposed for Wickham will cripple the capaacity for
future expansion of heavy rail services to the Newcastle CBD.
Arguments based on the average passenger loading are instrinsically stupid. All
suburban commuter rail systems are justified in terms of their ability to cope
with peak loadings, and in car-happy Australia they can be very lightly loaded
at other times.
The comparison between light rail on the St Kilda / Port Melbourne lines and the
Newcastle proposal is a favourite with shallow thinkers. One glaring
dissimilarity is that nobody ever proposed to close Flinders Street station and
replace it with a produce market (or drilled in the area to check if the produce
market could be fifteen storeys high). This point applies equally to the
principal heavy rail termini in the London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool,
A major consideration motivating the conversion of the St Kilda / Port Melbourne
lines was the intractable problem of congestion at Flinders Street station, both
in the movement of pedestrians around the station, and the movement of trains on
the approach tracks and in the platform area. Even with the diversion of trains
onto the underground loop and the recently opened regional line, this remains a
Just like Newcastle. Not.
Overseas conversions from heavy rail passenger lines to light rail generally
have the same rationale as the absorption of surface branch lines as extensions
of the London underground system in former times. That is, to get slow local
services off the main lines and onto a separate right of way so that more long-
distance services can use the main lines in the inner urban areas.
Just like Newcastle. Not.
But wait, there's more. 50 storey high rise from one end of town to the other is
required to justify retention of heavy rail in Newcastle, but 3km of light rail
from Wickham to Nobby's can be justified on the basis of the urban regeneration
plans so far revealed.
Show us the business case that justfies this lunatic assertion. Nobody has been
able to produce a business case that is anything less than a financial disaster
in all the years that light rail has been mooted, starting in 1989. Slightly
less than one month before light rail for Newcastle was announced in the state
budget, the then Planning Minister Brad Hazzard dismissed the idea as not viable
or sustainable, on the grounds of inadequate population.
I put it to you that the promise of light rail for Newcastle is a lie.
I put it to you that the purpose of the lie is twofold: to reassure the gullible
in the wider Newcastle area that the CBD east will still have a rail service of
some kind, and to help sell apartments off the plan to those who think that life
in the CBD east without light rail or heavy rail would not appeal.
The question of who is a bare-faced liar and who is simply a dim-witted fellow-
traveller is one that I leave as an exercise for the interested reader.
I quote an average patronage to demonstrate that it is not the massive number that some would have us believe and it is going down year on year. Of course I know that it is higher in peak periods but still very low. 290 passengers on 16 trains in the morning peak - still less than 20 per train in the peak period - it is still very very low and getting even lower as land use changes.
Light Rail is moving ahead. Construction of the interchange at Wickham, complete with Light Rail platforms is now well underway. Contracts for design and environmental works have been let. A project team is already established in Honeysuckle. The Project Director has been appointed. The REF is due out any day. Survey and utility searches have been completed. Seems like your claim that Light Rail is a lie is in fact the lie.
All you have done is demonstrate why rail enthusiasts should never be taken serious when it comes to broad transport policy. The above rant shows that in spades.
“An amazing rant. Not only do you attack me personally you seem to forget what
you are arguing. I made the point that replacing heavy rail with light rail is
common. I did not say the reasons are the same in Newcastle. The reasons for
doing so vary from place to place and are often numerous. Of course the reasons
for doing so in Newcastle will not be identical to other places around the
world. Where did I say they were?”
Your silence on this issue is certainly significant. But while you were singing
a muted version of "Everybody's doing it, doing it, doing it" and pointing to
examples, like one of the daydream sequences in a Dennis Potter teleplay, I was
trying to find relevance to the main subject of this disputation: the
replacement of heavy rail with light rail in Newcastle. Could one say, for
instance, that the downtown shopping precincts of your example cities were
at death's door, until heavy rail hopped into a nearby phone booth, wrenched its
own head off, replaced it with a tiny light rail network, then jumped back out
and saved the day? I think not.
I shall have more to say in due course about the legendary restorative powers of
light rail in shopping precincts. But it is really up to you to demonstrate that
your example cities have some logical relevance to the case for replacing heavy
rail with light rail in Newcastle. Otherwise your examples merely supply rocks
to my catapult.
A personal attack? I have not called you a child molester, or a domestic
violence risk, or anything else of a specifically personal nature. I do not want
to. I do not have reason to.
You are the leading defender of the government’s Newcastle rail policy on this
forum. It is a forum for discussion of rail issues. You should expect your
understanding of rail-related issues to be challenged where that understanding
You should expect the occasional colourful metaphor. For example, “lunatic
assertion”, where it is the assertion that carries the lunatic tag (the
behaviour, not the person), and colourful does not come anywhere near the more
intense shades of blue.
“I quote an average patronage to demonstrate that it is not the massive number
that some would have us believe and it is going down year on year. Of course I
know that it is higher in peak periods but still very low. 290 passengers on 16
trains in the morning peak - still less than 20 per train in the peak period -
it is still very very low and getting even lower as land use changes.”
And the recent decline dates from the announcement that the line would be cut,
and is steepest in consequence of the interim truncation at Hamilton. Which is
old news as far as the fate of heavy rail in inner Newcastle is concerned, but
you somehow expect light rail from Wickham to do better than the former heavy
rail service, despite the fact that change of mode causes loss of patronage
according to every reputable transport model. Consultants and reviewers differ,
sometimes heatedly, about how much patronage drops, but all agree that it drops.
You have claimed in this thread that light rail is a proven means of activating
shopping centres. References, please. According to Travers Morgan (1989) and the
overseas surveys that they referenced, the introduction of light rail will not
attract business to an area if the pre-existing case for the business enterprise
is inadequate. At most, it will determine the specific areas in which the most
intense development occurs (typically those areas closest to the light rail
route). I'll just repeat for the sake of clarity that the latter outcome only
applies where the business case for commercial development is sound even without
light rail's presence.
The business case for Newcastle as a magnet for shoppers from the suburbs is
much feebler now than in 1989. The introduction of a forced mode change is
significant for those passengers who don’t care two hoots about the nostalgic
value of heavy rail, but do prefer a continuous journey on a reserved transport
But of course you didn’t mean that Newcastle would become the regional shopping
magnet of old; that would be just so much nostalgia (if it were used to justify
heavy rail). Where do you think the shoppers will come from in sufficient
numbers to justify light rail? Or to justify the shops themselves, for that
matter? Considered on its own, the light rail route runs through mostly
commercial areas, meaning that the number of residents within walking distance
of the line will be abnormally low, even relative to the population density of
the Newcastle local government area as a whole, which is itself low by world
The more realistic argument underpinning the government's urban strategy for
Newcastle is not that light rail will save the shopping centre. Their strategy
is an outgrowth (hopefully a benign outgrowth) of the view held by Newcastle
councillors since at least the early 70s, but reinforced by the subsequent
decline until the departure of major department stores; Newcastle needs to build
its local population base to replace the suburban shoppers who now go to
suburban shopping centres. A by-product of this would be that the increase in
local population would also provide more potential light rail customers, who
would probably not find heavy rail services quite so convenient. But a certain
critical population density must be attained for light rail to be viable.
This is where the planning department is the right place to look for the best
information. No doubt they have put their best population estimates into the
business case study for light rail. Yes, the one that red-flagged the light rail
concept as not offering value for money, and put warning flags on several other
So what has changed since 1989 that might be seen as invalidating the verdict of
the 2014 study? For one thing, Professor Peter Newman has advocated construction
of light rail systems where the cost would be exorbitant unless entrepreneurs
such as property developers fund it at least partly, in consideration of the
increased value that it will return to them on their investment. For another,
the government has proposed that the light rail line and all the rest of
Newcastle’s local public transport systems should be operated on a commercial
basis by a single private enterprise. So it would seem that the critical issues
are whether Newcastle has enough residential and commercial development
potential to drive the light rail business case into reasonable value for money
territory, and whether any entrepreneurs are prepared to take the chance on it.
I won’t pretend to any specific knowledge of the business case which, small
leaks excepted, is still cabinet in confidence, but it would seem that there is
not an oversupply of land to be developed, even using the rail corridor, and the
only real direction in which to expand is upwards. It may well be that we won’t
see high rise residential developments on the site of the Newcastle Cathedral
(think of the harbour views!), but who would dare to offer a guarantee, given
the track record of this government in promising one outcome and delivering
And the latest developments?
“Light Rail is moving ahead. Construction of the interchange at Wickham,
complete with Light Rail platforms is now well underway. Contracts for design
and environmental works have been let. A project team is already established in
Honeysuckle. The Project Director has been appointed. The REF is due out any
day. Survey and utility searches have been completed. Seems like your claim that
Light Rail is a lie is in fact the lie.”
This is evidence that the government now regards fulfillment of its light rail
promise, or at least the appearance of such a possibility, as a political
necessity. It has nothing to do with the conditions under which the government
made the promise originally. There was no deal with the Shooters and Fishers at
that time. The readiness of the government to break promises seemingly made in
good faith was not then so blatantly apparent. Least of all was it apparent to
Paul Broad, who as chairman of HDC seems to have been one of the last to hear
that the heavy rail corridor would not be preserved from development.
It may be relevant that I said “is a lie” where “was a lie” may prove to be the
eventual reality. If so, I’ll accept the correction, when it happens. But it
would be a case of governmental truthfulness by misadventure.
Come on, Northern Flyer. Put me in my proper place once and for all, by telling
me that it was Brad Hazzard who was the liar on 18th May 2013, when he said that
light rail was not economically viable or sustainable in Newcastle for the next
10 to 20 years. That, and the budget announcement of 17th June 2013, cannot both
represent the truth. An interval of thirty days was not sufficient time to make
a responsible and well-researched decision to switch policy from the easy option
to the hard option. I shall resist all temptation to speculate about who pulled
whose strings, and from what motives, because I just don't know, but the process
was simply not rational.
Does the establishment of a light rail bureaucracy mean that everyone is pulling
together on this? Mild language warning, but the description coined several
decades ago by a government member for a particularly unpopular policy seems
relevant here. I haven’t attempted to google the exact wording, for reasons that
a moment’s thought will explain, but the gist of it is as follows: “This policy
is like a great big turd sandwich, and we’ve all got to eat it up, and smile,
and go yummy, yummy, yummy.” In relation to the Newcastle light rail team, it
has been reported that at least one member has felt sufficient revulsion to spit
the yummy in a very public way, and I sympathise with that team member's reduced
career prospects in consequence of such honesty:http://www.theherald.com.au/story/3729833/mixed-signals-at-the-light-rail-interchange/
“All you have done is demonstrate why rail enthusiasts should never be taken
serious when it comes to broad transport policy. The above rant shows that in
And the approved model for handling “broad transport policy” (not to be confused
with Paul Broad’s transport policy) goes something like this:
Someone asks a question about the location of the heavy / light rail
interchange: will it be at Wickham, as announced several months previously, or at
Woodville Junction? Naturally, they ask the Transport Minister. The Transport
Minister refers them to the Planning Minister. The Planning Minister refers them
to HDC. Bob Hawes at HDC states that the location of the interchange is an
operational matter, and will be dealt with in the scoping studies due to
commence shortly. Mow who can guess what might be wrong with all that?
The location of a major transport interchange is not an operational matter,
which is generally understood to mean an issue that arises in the day to day
running of the system. It is a significant factor in the capital cost of a
transport project, and as such should be considered as part of the project
definition study. The scoping study referenced by Hawes sounds as though it has
that function, but it should not be commenced after the budget allocation has
been announced. Not that the budget contained any specific allocation for light
rail; the press assumed that it was the same item described as urban
revitalisation in Newcastle. However there was a set allocation for the heavy
rail truncation, and truncation at Woodville Junction would have made a massive
difference to that; Woodvill Junction has always been the most expensive option.
Oh yes, the scoping study for light rail was to decide the route to be followed
betweem Wickham and Newcastle; the business case study to determine the
viability of light rail was not even put out to tender until several months
later. What a total dog’s breakfast.