Light rail is open to the public from February 18, providing a new way to get around the city centre. Locals have watched the shiny new red light rail vehicles running through the city for testing since construction wrapped up late last year, and many have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to jump on board.
This month we spoke to the Newcastle Light Rail team to get some insight into our new transport system and what it will mean for us Novocastrians.
Where and how often does it run, and what will it cost?
Newcastle Light Rail runs between Newcastle Interchange at Wickham and Newcastle Beach. It has six stops, including key hubs like Civic and Queens Wharf.
Light rail vehicles will operate daily from 5am to 1am. Between the hours of 7am and 7pm they will run on a ‘turn up and go’ frequency, meaning there’s no need to check a timetable. There’s digital signage at each stop showing passengers how long the wait is until the next service.
Newcastle Light Rail is fully accessible, and in addition to having level boarding from the platform to the light rail vehicle, each vehicle comes with a wheelchair ramp, wheelchair parking spaces, and can accommodate most mobility scooters.
Each light rail vehicle has a maximum capacity of 270 people, is air-conditioned for comfort, and runs on a rubber-sealed track to make for a smoother, quieter ride.
Using an Opal card is the best way to pay for your fare on light rail and allows you to take advantage of the many benefits Opal offers, such as the Transfer Discount.
Fares will cost just 20 cents for adults or 10 cents for children, concession card holders, seniors or pensioners if they are connecting from the train, bus or Stockton ferry.
Adults tapping onto light rail will pay a fare of $2.20. The fare for children, concession holders, seniors and pensioners will be $1.10.
Forgot your Opal card? ‘Contactless payments’ are also available on light rail, which means you can tap on and off using your Mastercard, Visa or American Express. The Contactless payment fare is the same as an Adult Opal trip.
Single trip, or cash tickets, are also available. Single trip tickets cost more than using your Opal card.
Don’t have an Opal card or would like to learn more? Visit Newcastletransport.info
Pedestrian & traffic safety around light rail
Conditions in Newcastle’s city centre have changed, with new signs, traffic lights and road markings showing drivers, cyclists and pedestrians how to behave around light rail.
A 40km/h speed limit is in place for all vehicles, including light rail, on Hunter and Scott streets between Worth Place and Telford Street. Sticking to the rules and being aware of your surroundings will help you stay safe.
For most of Hunter and Scott streets, light rail runs in its own dedicated lane known as a tramway. Drivers are not allowed to drive on a tramway unless avoiding an obstruction.
There is also a mixed running section on Scott Street, between Newcomen and Pacific streets. In this section, light rail vehicles and other road users share a lane. Road users are generally required to treat light rail as any other large vehicle in this section.
Top tips for pedestrians
• Light rail vehicles move quietly. Avoid distractions like mobile devices and earphones so you can pay attention and stay alert
• Only cross at pedestrian crossings and always look both ways. Light rail vehicles can approach from either direction and at any time
• Access light rail stops via the designated entry. Never short cut over the tracks
• Remember light rail drivers have blind spots. Never assume the driver has seen you
• Pram and wheelchair wheels can catch in the tracks. Slow down before crossing and try to cross at a right angle
Top tips for drivers
• Obey all traffic lights and road signs. There are new traffic lights at light rail crossings including at Stewart Avenue and Steel Street.
• Remember light rail vehicles take longer to stop than cars and can't swerve to avoid a collision
• Don't drive on a tramway unless avoiding an obstruction such as a broken down vehicle. Using the tramway to pass slow-moving vehicles or cyclists is not permitted
• Always give cyclists a metre when passing. If this isn't possible, stay behind until safe to pass
• Never queue across intersections – if in doubt, don't go out
Top tips for cyclists
• Take care near tracks; wheels can catch in the tracks or can slip and cause a fall. Slow down before crossing the tracks at intersections and try to cross at a right angle
• Use caution in wet weather as tracks and road markings may be slippery
• Don't ride on a tramway unless avoiding an obstacle such as a broken down vehicle
• Take the lane – ride in the centre of the lane to ensure approaching drivers can see you
• Always keep a safe distance from light rail vehicles.
Get on board!
When you’re waiting on the platform, make sure you stay behind the safety line until your light rail vehicle arrives.
Once on board, make sure you stand clear of the doors and take a seat, or, if standing, hold onto a hand strap or handrail.
Light Rail Community Open Day
Be one of the first to ride light rail in Newcastle for free before services start on Monday 18 February!
Visit one of the six stops between Newcastle Beach and Newcastle Interchange for some family friendly fun and excitement and to jump on board for a ride.
From 11am to 4pm, each of the six stops will have live music, kid’s entertainment, magicians, monster bubbles, photo booths, stilt walkers, face painting and more.
While you’re in the city, be sure to visit one of the nearby cafes for a bite to eat, or take in some retail therapy and soak up the atmosphere and entertainment!
Visit Newcastletransport.info to find out more about light rail.