While light rail is normally a godsend to urban and suburban revitalization efforts, the design for a new light rail serving downtown Newcastle, NSW, Australia has been accused of being unfriendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, and a detriment to revitalization.
Earlier in 2016, Connecting Newcastle released an urban renewal vision that provided a framework for us to review the New South Wales (NSW) government’s light rail plan, which has been open for comment for the past six weeks.
The cornerstone of our vision is for an integrated transport network where buses, trains, cars and light rail co-exist with pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and scooters; and it is a vision based on extensive consultation with our community over many years.
Our review of the light rail plan has unveiled some deficiencies which will make it very challenging to achieve our vision. The current plan to separate traffic and light rail shuns cyclists and pedestrians by creating a main-street access barrier. The space needed for this style of light rail system is substantial and at the expense of cycleways, parking and vibrant public spaces.
The plan proposed by Transport for NSW dedicates too much space exclusively for light rail lanes and the frequency of services – just one rail car every 10 minutes, does not justify the loss of amenity and ease of access for visitors to the city centre.