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MAITLAND commuters were largely unimpressed with the state government’s plan to install light rail in Newcastle CBD at a consultation session last night, preferring to keep the heavy rail line intact.
Forty-five people attended the meeting in East Maitland and spoke to representatives from Urban Growth NSW and Transport for NSW about the proposed light rail options.
Maitland resident Dallas Edwards frequently catches the train to Newcastle station and wants the government to improve the heavy rail line.
He could not see how light rail from an interchange at Wickham would help commuters from Maitland, the Upper Hunter and Dungog access the CBD.
‘‘It will take a lot longer to get into Newcastle if you have to move off the train and onto a bus or the light rail,’’ he said.
‘‘I catch the train but if this happens I’ll be getting in my car and driving.’’
Urban Growth NSW urban renewal project manager David Antcliff urged commuters to think beyond the current situation and envisage what Newcastle could look like in 20 and 30 years.
He said light rail would complement a plan to fill the CBD with employment, housing and ultimately economic prosperity.
He said the western end of the CBD at Wickham would become a hub for business, with the eastern end becoming a residential precinct.
This would give Maitland commuters a direct route into the future business precinct, he said.
‘‘This is genuine consultation, and we want to hear what people think about the light rail options,’’ Mr Antcliff said.
‘‘Light rail is 100per cent accessible to wheelchairs, scooters, prams, and people with surfboards; these are things that have been a concern for people and we have listened to that.
‘‘We want the best urban renewal outcome ... We understand the importance of an efficient transport mode ... the transfer from the heavy rail line to light rail will be simple and efficient.’’
Maitland Save Our Rail president Kim Cross said the government should install light rail along the existing corridor and leave the heavy rail line in place until the new transport mode is ready to be used.
She was concerned commute times into Newcastle would blow out if people had to get off the train and onto a bus.
‘‘We haven’t been told how long we will have to be out onto buses before the light rail is built, it could be three years, it could be 10 years, it might never happen,’’ Ms Cross said.
Residents can comment on the plans at [color=#0c41a4]revitalisingnewcastle.com.au[/color]
This article first appeared on www.theherald.com.au
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