Line should be extended: Constance

Andrew Constance.

ANDREW Constance says Newcastle’s light rail line should be extended in the future, he just doesn’t know if he’ll be the man to do it.

The Transport Minister became the first in the governmentto back the idea of an extended light rail system in Newcastle duringhis visit to the city on Tuesday, saying extending the line into a wider network was “the whole point” of introducing the system into the city.

“This is in essence building a line that is going to form the basis of a network in generations to come,” Mr Constancesaid.

“We’re going to crack on and build what will be a line that will provide a spine for the tram network in the city and I would expect future governments to extend light rail throughout the city.

“That’s why we’re in the midst now of starting a review in terms of that future extension.”

He said that, while there were “no costs” for an extension,the release of the project’s review of environmental factors on Thursday would reveal that the government is looking at future route options.

“Into the future there will be politicians like me announcing new lines and new network but it has got to be looked at holistically,” he said.

“There’s a lot of community assets around the city where you would ideally have light rail, be it the hospital, the stadium, be it the university.”

Butthe minister stopped short of saying when, or if, his government would do it.

“I’m charged with building it at the moment,let’s get the first rail down,” he said.

“One thing I do know is people tend to believe it when they see it [and]I would expect this healthy skepticism to remain until wethat first line down.”

While Labor itself has not committed to extending the network, ithas called for the government to commit to extending the line and fund it using money from the Port of Newcastle sale.

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government shoulduse some of that money to “create a network that goes to the employment, education and retail nodes in the city”.

Asked on Tuesday whether the government should use more money from the Port of Newcastle sale to fund infrastructure like the extension, Mr Constance said the city was “very lucky”.

“The people of NSW own the port [and] the people of NSW are going to benefit from it,” he said.“I come from a regional community,we’re entitled to our fair share of the state’s assets too.”

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