BUDGET: Cash for regional roads 

By , 10/04/2019 12:15

MIXED: Hunter Transport Improvement Association president Graham Boyd welcomes the government’s light rail investment, but says more is needed on other transport networks. Picture: Simone De PeakWHILE the spotlight will rightly shine on the state government’s plan to proceed with a light rail line into Newcastle’s CBD, other significant road and transport projects were funded in yesterday’s budget.

Some, such as the Scone rail overpass and Muswellbrook bypass, got off the starting blocks with funding commitments to planning processes.

At the top of the scale, a further $222million was committed to the predominantly federally funded Hunter Expressway project. And, as revealed by the Newcastle Herald yesterday, $30million has been committed to the ongoing construction of the Newcastle bypass between Sandgate and Shortland, with a further $24.7million kickstarting some long-awaited improvements to the roundabouts on the New England Highway at Maitland.

Also getting a funding nod yesterday was the widening of Cormorant Road on Kooragang Island with $3million committed to the planning phase.

The widening of Nelson Bay Road was also boosted by a commitment of $20million to widening the Bobs Farm to Anna Bay stretch.

On the Central Coast, $56million will be injected into that region’s ailing road system.

Back on the rail network, the state government has set aside $314million for improvements to the freight rail corridor between Sydney and Newcastle.

The government is also pushing ahead with rolling out its Opal card – an integrated transport ticketing system which will be extended to Newcastle after it is introduced in Sydney. The Opal card will apply to all trains, ferries and buses operating in the Newcastle area.

Also of interest to the Hunter, the government will deliver 39 new Waratah trains this year, which are produced mainly in the Hunter.

Additionally, Newcastle will probably share in a $92million commitment to providing 201 new and replacement buses.

Light rail a catalyst for other transport

REACTION: A renewed commitment to light rail in Newcastle will be the catalyst for broader transport improvements in the city, one of the region’s peak transport groups said yesterday.

Hunter Transport Improvement Association president and former Newcastle city council Graham Boyd said a $10million commitment to investigating the extension of light rail to the suburbs was ‘‘really positive news’’.

‘‘We’ve always said to the government that $40million has been spent on that line, with new concrete sleepers and the like, so why would they want to cover it all up with dirt,’’ he said.

It is also the association’s desire to see light rail extended to the university and to John Hunter Hospital, he added.

While the association was pleased with the government’s commitment to new buses, Mr Boyd said it fell short of what was really needed.

‘‘We don’t need any more new buses,’’ Mr Boyd said. ‘‘What we need are more regular bus services.

‘‘We also welcome news that money is being invested in the freight rail corridor, but the downside of that is that more freight will continue to pass through the Adamstown gates.

‘‘Likewise, funding for the inner-city bypass is also great news, but we’d still like to see funding for that missing link between Jesmond and Rankin Park.’’

News of the Opal ticketing system moving closer to Newcastle should be treated with some caution, Mr Boyd warned.

‘‘It’s a good concept, but we’ll have timed ticketing on buses in Newcastle under that scheme, meaning that bus fares will rise, and on some routes double,’’ he said.

NRMA director Kyle Loades welcomed money earmarked for major road projects in the budget, especially for winery roads where funding will be almost doubled to $13.8million next financial year.

Hunter motorists would also appreciate allocations to on the New England Highway, F3 and at Warners Bay, he said.

“The NRMA is looking forward to the Hunter Expressway opening in 2014, knowing that the link will provide Hunter motorists with a considerable reduction in both travel times and congestion,” Mr Loades said.

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