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Drivers beware of light rail blunders


Police have pleaded with motorists and pedestrians in Newcastle’s CBD to take more care around the light rail corridor after several near-misses in the first month of operation.

Northern Region traffic tactician, chief inspector, Amanda Calder, said officers had observed some dangerous incidents during regular patrols of the Hunter Street transport system since its launch on 18 February.

One incident involved a driver who went onto the rail track, crossed to the wrong side of the road into the path of an oncoming tram, and then proceeded through a red light before police could stop the vehicle.

“The light rail has been up and running for more than a month and the vast majority of people are aware of the changed road network and have adapted to the changes,” chief inspector Calder said.
“There are some drivers who are not paying attention and are making serious mistakes, with their actions endangering themselves and others along Hunter Street and Stewart Avenue.
“Officers from Traffic and Highway Patrol have observed several near-misses during this first month of operation, with the most common offences being vehicles driving on the tram tracks; running red lights at crossings; and pedestrians – who are often distracted and looking at their phones – jaywalking across the tracks.”

Chief inspector Calder urged motorists to use common sense and take their time on roads to adapt to the new conditions.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Keolis Downer – the private operators of Newcastle Transport – believed the city’s $368 million light rail was “already showing its worth” after patronage data revealed almost 115,000 customer journeys took place in the first month of operation.

The light rail attracted an average of 4,000 journeys per day during that time, with about half of those involving a transfer to, or from, another mode of transport.

Keolis Downer Hunter corporate affairs director, Andrew Fletcher, said he was pleased to see customers jump on board.

“Patronage data shows more people [are] catching light rail than were previously catching the 110 rail replacement bus,” he said.

“Light rail is already showing its worth as a valuable part of Newcastle’s integrated transport network.

“We continue to work closely with Transport for NSW to consider long-term transport planning to connect people with key locations that will improve transport services for Newcastle.”

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