Newcastle Greens today released a local transport policy that would provide the basis for sustainable transport in the Newcastle and Wallsend electorates.
A feature of the policy is its proposal for an independent expert evaluation of implementing fare-free bus and ferry transport for all services offered by Newcastle Buses for a four-year trial period, as a key component of a strategy to shift people from cars to public transport.
The policy also proposes immediate action on:
* · landscaping the Newcastle rail line, and installing safe, at-grade crossings.
* · construction of the Glendale railway station and transport interchange.
* · a western freight rail by-pass.
* · a road and rail line along the Hunter river in the former BHP steelworks site from Mayfield to Sandgate.
* · expanding the current Newcastle fare-free zone service.
* · a comprehensive independent audit and review of current public bus services and infrastructure.
The policy also advocates:
* · establishing an adequately funded Independent Regional Transport Authority to manage and operate the Hunter’s public transport system.
* · establishing a regional transport trust fund, to fund new public transport services from an investment growth fund and other identified income streams.
* · developing an Integrated Regional Transport Plan, based on ecological sustainability and social equity principles, with the aim of achieving a major shift from private motor vehicle use to walking, cycling and public transport.
The Greens candidate for Wallsend, Keith Parsons, said that – if implemented – the policy would be a major win for the many car-dependent and transport disadvantaged people in the Wallsend electorate.
“Wallsend is poorly served by public transport, and people are crying out for a better system and for political leadership in shifting from car-dependency to transport that is cheap and easy to use,” Mr Parsons said. “The Wallsend electorate suffers more than most from short-sighted planning and development that has built-in car dependency, and from a lack of serious government commitment to public transport.
“Communities in the Wallsend electorate would benefit enormously from the construction of the Glendale railway station and transport interchange, from our proposed audit and review of bus services, and from the proposed four-year trial of free public transport,” Mr Parsons said.
The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton, said that a transport policy such as this was crucial for the future of Newcastle. “Newcastle is now experiencing Sydney-like peak hour congestion, and nothing that either the Coalition or Labor has proposed offers any significant change for the better.
“Under Labor, local public transport services and patronage have declined, and recent initiatives have been politically driven, and poorly planned and implemented.
“The immediate initiatives we are advocating will resolve a number of key problems that are impeding the city’s future development, and our proposal for an independent examination of a four-year trial of fare-free public transport offers a new and exciting initiative that could revolutionise public transport in the Newcastle area.
“We’ve identified a variety of funding sources that could provide a sustainable financial base from which a regional transport authority could develop new services, including establishing a regional transport investment fund seeded by state and federal money that would be cheaper than the amount currently proposed for cutting the Newcastle rail line.
“Our policy would end the divisive and debilitating attempt by vested interests to cut the city’s intercity rail service to Newcastle station, and would re-legitimise the rail line as a key to the city’s sustainable revitalisation.
“This would allow us to get on with revitalising both the CBD and our public transport system, rather than falsely pitting these two objectives against each other,” Mr Sutton said.“Other immediate measures would resolve current freight rail capacity constraints and provide much needed transport infrastructure to facilitate economic diversification in the future development of the former BHP steelworks site at Mayfield.
“Beyond these immediate projects, we desperately need to get started with an integrated regional transport plan, linked to the review of the Hunter Regional Strategy, and including consideration of a range of specific initiatives (identified in the policy) that have been proposed by local community groups and The Greens over recent years.
“An integrated transport plan would provide the framework for genuinely considering those initiatives and testing them for both their feasibility and for their relative potential contribution to achieving the plan’s agreed public policy objectives,” Mr Sutton said.
For further information or comment, please contact Keith Parsons (Greens candidates for Wallsend), on 0408 446 022, or John Sutton (Greens candidate for Newcastle), on 4969 2668 or 0411 154 004. John Sutton’s campaign blog is at: http://newcastle2011.blogspot.com