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BOARDING Newcastle’s new light rail system, Pia Clarke “felt like I was in Europe”.
Despite carrying a hat and towel for the beach at the free community open day on Sunday, Ms Clark said the first of what would become a daily trip on the network reminded her of living in London and easy-to-navigate public transport networks in cities including Strasbourg.
“It will be perfect,” said Ms Clark, who lives at Hamilton East and will walk to catch the light rail every day from Newcastle Interchange to work in the East End. Services officially start at 5.05am on Monday.
“I love it, I think it’s the best thing ever,” she said. “Anything that’s new in this town is a bit whoa, but once it’s here you think it’s fantastic.”
Her partner Sam Ryan said sometimes Newcastle was “far too parochial for its own good” and that the light rail was a “major coup”.
“My grandfather used to say ‘My darling boy, this town will be all it can be one day. I will be dead and my son will be probably gone, but you my darling boy, will probably see it. You’ll be an old man but you will see this town suddenly rise up’. And that’s what happening now. It’s wonderful.”
Passengers of all ages queued at Newcastle Interchange well ahead of the first service, which was scheduled to leave at 11am to make the trip through Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street and Queens Wharf to Newcastle Beach station.
For Don and Colleen Prider, the day had been a long time coming. “I campaigned hard [for light rail] eight years ago,” Mrs Prider said. The couple, in their 80s, relocated from Balmain to Newcastle Beach a decade ago.
“We always used to catch the train to Sydney – I think we’ve taken the car to Sydney six times in 10 years – but would often be the only people getting off at Newcastle,” Mr Prider said. “What a terrible waste of land and people and electricity. It looks great now.”
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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