Call for funding to improve ‘strategic corridors’

TWO new infrastructure plans for the Hunter make the case for further state and federal investment in projects that could help boost national productivity as well as benefit the region, their authors say.

The Hunter Economic Infrastructure Plan and the Hunter Strategic Infrastructure Plan were released yesterday, after being submitted to the federal government in November.

The first acknowledges the significance of the coal industry to the region’s economy, and sets out a list of road improvements needed to support its activities, as it moves into the Ulan and Gunnedah regions, and the communities it impacts.

They include the upgrade of the New England Highway to dual carriageway from Belford to the Golden Highway, the widening of Singleton’s ‘‘Gowrie Gates’’ rail underpass, and bypasses of Singleton and Muswellbrook.

The report, prepared by Regional Development Australia and Infrastructure NSW, also advocates an analysis of the mining industry’s water requirements to support growth under drought conditions.

The second report, designed to complement the first, sets out the infrastructure needs of the broader community, including short-term projects to be delivered within five years, such as light rail for Newcastle.

During that time, planning should be done for projects such as a new hospital at Maitland, a fix for Adamstown’s rail crossing and the Rankin Park to Jesmond section of the Newcastle Inner City Bypass.

Both reports emphasise the need to enhance ‘‘strategic corridors’’ to the city’s airport and port.

Hunter Development Corporation general manager Bob Hawes said having solid planning in place would put the region in a strong position to attract federal funding.

As reported yesterday, one aspect of the economic infrastructure plan is for a proposal to improve the Golden Highway so that more large ‘‘B-double’’ trucks up to 25metres long can use it as a route from the state’s central west to Newcastle.

Launching the proposal yesterday, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner welcomed it as one that could boost the economies of both regions.

However, he declined to commit any funding and such plans would be for Infrastructure NSW to consider further to ensure infrastructure was delivered at ‘‘arms length’’ from the government.

■ 0-5 years: Duplication of Mayfield’s Tourle Street bridge (pictured) and approaches; Pennant Street bridge, Glendale, stage one; Newcastle urban renewal project, including light rail; Newcastle Airport terminal expansion; University of Newcastle CBD campus; NBN (national high-speed broadband) rollout.

■ 6-20 years: New England Highway, Belford to Golden Highway connection; M1 Pacific Motorway/Weakleys Drive intersection improvements; M1 extension to Raymond Terrace; Newcastle inner-city bypass, Rankin Park link; Adamstown rail level crossing improvements; Lower Hunter freight corridor; Lower Hunter water plan; new hospital for Maitland.

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