Connected = Competitive

Modern cities are increasingly connected. In the way we live and work, as well as the way data, goods and services travel around our communities, urban mobility now defines a city as globally competitive.

Few would argue that Newcastle’s public transport is meeting this challenge. Patronage has been falling steadily in recent years and today, less than one in every 25 trips to work in the city utilises public transport.

Thankfully, the recent NSW Budget has confirmed the Baird Government’s commitment to address these network challenges and promote public transport use. The historic difference for Newcastle will be the integration of bus, ferry and light rail services under the one service contract.

This world’s best practice approach has seen cities like Manchester and Bordeaux achieve stunning results. Their transit systems are supported by sensible access and parking for cars, with a strong focus on customer service, making the public transport offering so compelling that people simply leave their cars in the garage.

But this is not just a European phenomenon. Dallas, Phoenix and Portland in the car-loving USA have embraced light rail as part of their future and are now considered model transit cities. If the Texans can reduce private vehicle use, surely we can too?

The state’s infrastructure spend has also unleashed a new wave of investment in city-building projects. Even before a length of track is laid in Newcastle, the private sector has been fuelling an investment pipeline which will soon hit $2 billion.

Latest research from the Property Council shows 28 residential projects hugging the light rail alignment and clustering around the new transport interchange - turbo-charging inner city housing supply by 3,000 new dwellings before 2020.

As the population swells, Newcastle’s light rail fleet will form part of the city’s brand and become an important part of how the city projects itself to the Asia-Pacific. That’s why it’s critical our trams are not mere Sydney clones. If we want to be known as a connected and competitive city, our transit system must be instantly recognisable as “Transport for Newcastle” and be integral to the city’s fabric.