NSW Govt plan reinforces need for major transport overhaul
A SNAPSHOT of what lies in store for the Northern Rivers transport network paints a challenging picture of a region with tired infrastructure struggling to keep up with a booming population.
The NSW Transport Master Plan reveals more pressure will be placed on the already congested Pacific Hwy as the population almost doubles in the next 20 years.
Even after duplication, the plan outlines the need for an overhaul of local and regional rail and bus services to take the pressure off the highway, particularly during peak tourist seasons.
Short-term solutions include the long-awaited second bridge over the Clarence River at Grafton - a NSW Nationals election promise - and re-opening the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail corridor.
A Transport NSW spokesperson said yesterday while government needed to "do its homework" on the rail corridor investigation "significant progress" had been made through a $2million feasibility study.
While it may come as no surprise to local residents, the report recognises regional bus services are inadequate and will not cope with the needs of a socially disadvantaged and ageing population - the number of residents over 65 is expected to double in the next 25 years - requiring access to health care.
Under the plan, the renewal of bus contracts combined with opening additional routes both locally and regionally over the next five years is expected to ease town centre traffic, particularly at Tweed and Lismore where the report notes lack of public transport and "a concentration of employment in service industries" creates increased congestion.
The expansion of a north coast bus line between Taree and Tweed with more frequent stops at Grafton, Casino and Lismore additional interchanges along the Pacific Hwy is also on the cards.
The report also found "greater integration" with south-east Queensland where job opportunities are expected to continue to attract north coast commuters was needed.
Transport Minister Gladys Bererejiklian said she would work with the Queensland Government to increase cross-border services over the next five years.
Short term goals
- Duplication of the Pacific Hwy and widening works to Bruxner Hwy
- Release of the Casino-to-Murwillumbah rail corridor investigation and consideration of its recommendations
- Renewal of local bus service contracts and opening of additional regional routes
- Expansion of North Coast bus line with additional stops and interchanges at Grafton, Lismore and Casino
- Additional crossing of the Clarence River at Grafton
- Increased cross-border services from North Coast to south east Queensland