‘This is going to change things’: inside the Newcastle Interchange TweetFacebookFears for business as light rail ramps up Transport Minister Andrew Constance, front, with Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel announcing light rail plans earlier this month.
STATE government officials say they havelearnt the lessons from of the roll-out of light rail in Sydney, and have vowed not to repeat the same missteps in Newcastle amid concern for the survival of Hunter Street retailers.
Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp said there were “grave concerns” for many businessesdirectly affected once construction of the rail line begins, mirroring the plight of some retailers on George Street in Sydney, which has been a construction zone fortwo years.
In September, the government will begin to close sections of Hunter Street to traffic, before working down to Scott Street next year.
Revitalising Newcastle program director Michael Cassel warned that some businesses would feel a pinch during that time.
However, he said that the government was prepared to adapt its plans if they didn’t work.
“The lessons that we’ve learnt and taken on board [from George Street] are you have to have a very close relationship with the business community, you need to be able to react if things aren’t working, don’t expect your construction schedule to occur without bumps –there’s going to be times where things don’t go perfectlyright –and be agile enough and focused enough to change,” Mr Cassel said.
Mr Crakanthorp said some Hunter Street businesses would “undoubtedly” close.
“There will be a lot of pain, more than they’re saying,” the Newcastle MP said.
“There are grave concerns that many businesses won’t be viable and will close.”
Mr Cassel disagreed there would be mass closures, believing manycould benefit from new trade associated with light rail workers. “I don’t think you can say it’s just because we’re building light rail that businesses are finding it difficult,” he said.