International players are being invited to propose an integrated transport model for Newcastle, after New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance said work was needed if light rail was to be a success in the growing city.
“Today we are asking global leaders to create Transport for Newcastle,” the minister said on Thursday, “connecting the city with one major operator to plan and run Newcastle Light Rail, buses, ferries and interchanges.”
Constance hopes an integrated approach to public transport can help turn around a negatively-trending public transport sector in the region.
“Patronage on public transport in Newcastle has dropped and customers tell us service levels are not up to scratch,” the minister said.
“It’s clear the current approach to transport in Newcastle isn’t working so it’s time to think outside the box.”
Constance said the planned light rail line gave the government an opportunity to re-think the transport network to support jobs, growth and urban renewal.
“If we want Newcastle to reach its potential, we need to create a modern and connected system that links light rail with frequent and reliable buses, ferries and trains,” he said.
“In an Australian first, we’ve put out a call to the best transport operators around the world to tell us how they could partner with the city to deliver a modern network for the city.
“Today’s announcement means that rather than having multiple operators running ad hoc services with mis-matched timetables, services would be streamlined to a sole provider, Transport for Newcastle, focused on customer service. This would be public transport run in Newcastle, for Novocastrians, not run from Sydney.”
Transport for NSW said a market sounding process has begun and will run until the end of the year, when the NSW Government will evaluate interest in the integrated transport model.
The announcement was welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association.
“This is exactly the transport approach that is needed for Newcastle in order for public transport to reach its full potential,” chief executive Danny Broad said.
“With one major operator integrating Newcastle’s bus, ferry, train and light rail routes into a single network, the city can expect to see greater efficiencies, improved customer service and increased patronage.
“This will lead to a more sophisticated transport service for the people of Newcastle which delivers directly to their needs.”
Broad said the Australian Government, like its international peers, was realising the far-reaching benefits of an integrated transport model.
“The Australasian Railway Association’s research on light rail shows that whether delivered by the public sector, the private sector, or a mix of both, successfully combining a multimodal network with light rail can drive growth in public transport use,” he said.
“Locally, the integration of the Gold Coast Light Rail line with the bus and rail systems was the catalyst for a 25% increase in public transport usage in the first year of light rail.
“Abroad, in the French city of Lyon, reorganising the buses, trains, trams and trolley buses into a multimodal approach provided an immediate 6 percent patronage increase and steady long-term growth. It’s pleasing to see Newcastle follow best practice by looking to deliver a modern, streamlined transport network for the city.
“With the Newcastle light rail project getting underway, now is the time to overhaul the transport network in Newcastle in order to get the local economy moving again, as well as revitalise the jobs market and refashion Newcastle’s CBD and urban areas,” he concluded.