Construction of Newcastle’s light rail infrastructure will be complete by the end of this month, with the remaining closed sections of road in the city set to open within a fortnight.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance says construction will be finished in the coming days, in line with the state government’s target.
Testing of trams will take place through the city over the next few months.
Mr Constance, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts and Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald joined Hunter Development Corporation and Revitalising Newcastle representatives in taking a close look at one of the new trams on Monday.
Mr Constance said a date had been earmarked for the new public transport service to begin, but he would not be drawn on specifics, saying it would happen “in the first couple of months of 2019”.
“It’s fair to say a number of years ago people were saying this couldn’t be done. Well, the job is done,” he said.
“Can I thank Newcastle for their patience through what has obviously been a 12 month construction period, a project that’s on time, it’s on budget, it’s being delivered.
“To the small business community, thank you for what you’ve endured but now the good times are around the corner.”
Mr Constance labelled Newcastle’s former heavy rail corridor a “Berlin Wall between the city and the water front”.
“In two weeks time this city will well and truly breathe as we see all barriers removed,” he said. Mr Constance said he didn’t plan to speak with CBD business owners affected by light rail construction during his visit, as Labor Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp had urged him to, and instead called Mr Crakanthorp the city’s “whinger-in-chief”.
“Ultimately now business is set to benefit,” he said. “Because we haven’t had the months of delay that we’ve experienced in relation to the Sydney CBD, that’s why we aren’t running the financial assistance here.”
Mr Crakanthorp said Newcastle residents were not interested in MPs “squabbling over petty politics”.
“They want their representatives to fight for what is important to them,” he said.
“What they are interested in is the rising cost of living, a quality education for their children, ensuring our hospitals are well-resourced and giving a fair go to businesses on Hunter Street.”
Safety checks will be conducted on the trams during the testing period. They will also be run along tracks through the city at a significantly slower speed than they would travel when in service, with the speeds incrementally increasing.
A community awareness campaign will also ramp up before the first passenger service starts to encourage safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists near the light rail network.
“Passenger safety is number one,” Mr Constance said.
“Everyone’s going to have to be very conscious of the trams, not only when it’s in revenue service and taking passengers across the city, but also in the testing and commissioning.”
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