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25 September 2017 Posted by 

JUST HOW FAR FETCHED IS IT?

Could the Coast have LIGHT RAIL?
By Dallas Sherringham, who has used Light Rail in Asia, the USA, Europe and the Gold Coast
IT may seem farfetched in these days of public projects needing to be economically sustainable, but a Light Rail was planned for the Central Coast as long ago as 1974.
 
It was part of a State Govt master plan for the region which would see Warnervale become a kind of Canberra funded by private enterprise.
 
The Light Rail was to run from the vicinity of Bay Village, which was just a dream on some architect’s desk in those days. 
 
Land was set aside for the project with the line to run along the lakes to link up with the main railway system at Wyong and then north to a new town centre of 200,000 people at Warnervale.
 
Sadly, it never happened, mainly because planning for possible future coal mining seemed to get right-of-way under the new town centre, dramatically altering building codes. A power station planned for Tuggerah, a key part of the service, was also abandoned.
 
The Light Rail question slumbered away until it was raised, to much hilarity and uproar, as a policy of a leading local political candidate.
 
But, just how far fetched is a Light Rail on the coast and what would it mean for business?
 
In order to debate this matter, you need to consider some facts and figures.
 
Research overseas has shown that the value of quality properties along a new Light Rail route increased on average by 400 per cent. Typically, buildings in a US city valued at $20M prior to the Light Rail being installed, were later valued at $80 million after its installation.
 
Multi storey developments and new shopping centres tended to be built along the new Light Rail routes, lessening their impact on other urban areas and traffic.
 
In Europe, whole town centres were finally free of traffic jams with Light Rail providing the principal means of access. This returned the streets to the people and led to a massive influx of visitors into the newly restored town centres. 
 
The Light Rail’s quiet, unintrusive nature meant that patrons and staff at restaurants and cafes were no longer assaulted by the noise of passing motor vehicles. Imagine Terrigal Esplanade without the traffic.
 
Closer to home, the Gold Coast Light Rail has been a major success and is currently carrying 20 per cent more passengers than originally planned. It is also being expanded and is eventually planned to reach the Gold Coast Airport and Coolangatta.
 
Light Rail has major advantage over normal urban transport such as buses. A train on the new Parramatta Light Rail can carry up to 300 people each. They mostly operate on their own right of way and have priority signals at intersections so they can main a timetable and offer frequent services in peak times.
 
Light Rail also operates on a smaller road section than normal buses and the trains can pass closely in each direction. The island platforms in the centre of the roadway are also less intrusive than normal bus operations where the buses have to continually re-enter passing traffic.
 
With around 50,000 coast residents classed as commuters and with retail outlets at Erin and Tuggerah drawing tens of thousands of people daily, the Light Rail already has huge potential.
 
So, my question to the State Govt is this? Why not start planning for the Light Rail on the coast right now? 
 
It is inevitable that such a service will be built sooner or later, so why not choose sooner?
 
By planning a Light Rail route now, the Central Coast Council could allow for its implementation in public works such as road upgrades and town centre refurbishments.
 
Project developers could plan major developments for the route and if part of it ran through open country, satellite cities could be developed along the route.
 
An ideal initial route would be Gosford-Erina-Terrigal-Wamberal-Bateau Bay-The Entrance with another line running from Bateau Bay to Tuggerah-Wyong-Warnervale-Lake Haven.
 
The routes have the potential for major multistory buildings to be built along the way and with developments accelerating because of the new system, council and the State Govt would be easily be  repaid for their investment through major increases in rate and tax returns.
 
The coast could also accommodate a much bigger increase in population without clogging the already slow moving roads with more traffic.
 
A project like this requires imagination and a massive future investment; however it is an investment that is eventually going to be made anyway.
 
NSW is currently undergoing a Light Rail revolution with the new systems in the CBD, Parramatta and Newcastle. The expertise in planning and building these systems and the equipment required are all available right now. Why not use them on the coast?
 
Why not implement it now while we have the skills and equipment in place and we still have the space to do it without major disruptions?


editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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