The Rail Tram and Bus Union has launched a tirade on the NSW government after it emerged Newcastle light rail would commence with reduced services.
The Newcastle Herald revealed on Friday trams will run every 10 to 15 minutes when the line launches, less frequent then the seven-and-a-half minute intervals promised for peak periods.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union’s tram and bus division secretary, David Babineau, said after the report it was “disgraceful that workers and commuters are being forced to suffer with an inferior service from day one”.
“The NSW government sold this glorified Newcastle revitalisation project, but all Novocastrians are getting are shambolic projects that fail to meet the standard that the Newcastle community deserve,” he said. “The light rail had no business case to begin with, nor was the community consulted.
“Now we’re hearing the government can’t even come through with their own plans that they’re forcing tax payers to fork out millions of dollars for. Once again the community of Newcastle are bearing the cost of a government who can’t be trusted to deliver on public transport.”
Newcastle Transport operator Keolis Downer said on Friday the “optimal frequency” of seven-and-a-half minutes would be achieved when a fifth tram comes into service “within the first few weeks” of operating the line.
In response to the Union, and criticism of the reduced services by Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government had delivered a light rail service “superior” to the existing 110 bus.
“If it had been left to Tim Crakanthorp, Labor and the unions, Novocastrians would still be paralysed by debate over whether to cut or keep the heavy rail while business confidence continued to drain from the city,” Mr Constance said.
“Instead, Newcastle today looks better than ever before, with cranes in the sky, optimism on the street, a new light rail system, and more than $3 billion of private investment pouring in and creating more jobs.
“By finishing the project early, we can open service for passengers on 18 February, providing 10 minute services in peak times. This is superior to any existing service.”
The Newcastle light rail project has been delivered in stark contrast to the Sydney CBD light rail, which has been plagued by delays.
The government has raced to launch the Newcastle line ahead of the March election.
“Workers and commuters deserve better than constantly being put a distant second to political point scoring from a government desperate for re-election,” Mr Babineau of the Rail Tram and Bus Union said.
Mr Constance said the union and Mr Crakanthorp’s “latest attempts to denigrate the project are an insult to the thousands of workers who have delivered light rail”.
“From the outset, the Member for Newcastle has opposed at every turn our government’s investment of more than $650 million in his own community, while we have got on with the job and completed Newcastle light rail ahead of schedule and on budget,” he said.