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Bypass, hospital precinct: A look at Newcastle’s changing face


One billion two hundred and eighty-five million dollars ($1,285,000,000).  

That’s the figure expected to make a difference to Novocastrians in need of hospital care in the future.  

Whether it’s the 3.4km section of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass between Rankin Park and Jesmond that cost $450 million or the $835 million expansion of the John Hunter and John Hunter Children’s Hospitals. 

At the moment, all we see as motorists is a maze of steel, concrete and tar winding its way past dirt and trees, as we trickle along a passage being shared by 70,000 vehicles per day. 

Development: Aerial view of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass looking west from Lookout Road towards Wallsend. Photo: Transport for NSW

At a Property Council of Australia event at NEX earlier this month, Transport for NSW executive director Peter McNally described Newcastle’s latest development as “phenomenal”.    

“You’ve probably experienced some of the chaos coming in today through the current stage of the bypass, it’s not a particularly good situation,” he said. 

“The amount of traffic through the Jesmond roundabout is in the order of about 70,000 vehicles a day.    

“That’s comparable to the M1.     

“I don’t think a lot of people outside of Newcastle who don’t experience that would understand just how severe that is.     

“If you move up on to Lookout Road, you’re equally looking at somewhere between 50 and 55,000 vehicles a day by any measure.    

“That’s pretty phenomenal.” 

Development: Newcastle Road westbound – heading to Wallsend/under the new Newcastle Inner City Bypass. Photo: Transport for NSW

Combining roadworks with extensive infrastructure development such as the John Hunter preciinct was always going to be a big ask, says Mr McNally  

“One of the things that’s a challenge for us is the fact that we are undertaking so much work across the network,” he said.

“You can easily travel through to Newcastle and we can affect you on three projects and we’re acutely aware of how much annoyance that can cause.”   

It will however be worth it, he reassures. 

“Once the bypass is open, the expectation is that more than half of those (the 70,000 current users) will be taken off,” Mr McNally said.

“If you’re travelling to the hospital, whether it be north, or from the roundabout at Jesmond, you’re going to reduce a vehicle journey that would’ve been about 15 minutes to about three.    

“I think from that point of view, it’s one of the most significant investments we can make.” 

Development: Artists impression of completed Newcastle Inner City Bypass.


This is the fifth and final stage of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass 

“We’ve pretty much built a section every 10 years,” said Mr McNally.   

“It first started in 1978. We did another section in the 80s, then in the late 90s, then in the 2000s and we’re finally finishing it.”     


Like much of Newcastle, the site was fraught with coal seams, adding to the complexity of earth movement. 

“The amount of earth being moved right now is quite significant,” Mr McNally said. 

“It’s something you won’t see in Newcastle again anytime in the near future.” 

Development: Newcastle Inner City Bypass northbound heading to Jesmond (passing under McCaffrey Dve) Photo: Transport for NSW

When will it be finished?   

“At this stage, I’d expect late 2025.   

“We’re certainly benefiting from the weather at the moment.   

“Productivity on site with respect to networks is nothing short of remarkable.    

“They’ve got a significant fleet there and they’re moving a lot of dirt very fast.    

“I’d say the interchange is coming together quite well.” 

Development: Artists impression of the JHH precinct showing green spaces to promote healing.

The news is music to the ears of Health Infrastructure executive director Amanda Bock. 

“To give you some perspective John Hunter Hospital services patients from Kingscliff in the north, down to Ulladulla in the south [and] out to Wentworth and Broken Hill in the west,” she said.

“So, we are covering a lot of ground and have about four to five billion dollars’ worth of work under construction.  

“Many locals in Newcastle know how busy the John Hunter Hospital is.

“They have over 95,000 emergency presentations a year and they are one of our third busiest hospitals in New South Wales, mainly because they are a referral hospital and have a catchment from way up north down to Newcastle, which makes it very busy, and they also obviously have the children’s hospital as well.” 

Development: Artists impression of the John Hunter Hospital Precinct.

What is being delivered?  

The John Hunter Hospital Precinct is an $835 million project. New features will include;

  • A bridge will link the old and the new hospitals, with the entrance to the Emergency Department underneath.  
  • A new seven-storey acute services building  
  • A new Emergency Department  
  • 900 new car parking spaces 
  • Doubled capacity of the current Intensive Care Unit  
  • 22 operating theatres and nine interventional suites  
  • Five procedure rooms for endoscopy and minor procedures  
  • Purpose-built flexible education space co-located within clinical services. 
  • Women’s services including birthing unit, day assessment unit & inpatient units  
  • Expanded and enhanced medical assessment and coordination unit  
  • Expanded and enhanced cardiac close observation unit  
  • Teaching spaces  
  • Retail spaces  
  • Two adult inpatient units  
  • Nexus Child & Adolescent Mental Health Unit  
Development: Artists impression of the new “toe-to-toe” twin rooms at John Hunter Hospital.

Types of rooms  

Ms Bock says there has always been a lot of debate around the best way to lay out an inpatient room. 

When developing plans the hospital worked closely with Hunter New England Health to devise the best solutions.  

  • Twin bedroom “toe-to-toe”- allowing both beds access to a window view and natural light (thought to help with the healing process).
  • Birthing suites – much bigger and include a bath in the corner.  
  • Rooms with carer spaces, including sofas with a rollout bed so a carer can stay overnight. 


The new design allows greater access to the outdoors. 

“I think we all experienced in Covid how important it was to be able to get out and about and how healing that is,” said Ms Bock. 

A large green gathering space will also connect the old and new hospitals. 

Development: Artists impression of the new birthing suites at John Hunter Hospital.


The new hospital addition will be fully electrified, no longer relying on natural gas. 

Project timeline 

The main civil works involved in the early construction commenced late 2022, when the contract was awarded to Multiplex. 

The acute services building is expected to be completed in 2025, with the overall project completed by 2027. 

For more of the development:

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