Police report dangerous incidents of motorists struggling to safely share Newcastle CBD streets with light rail vehicles

BE AWARE: Motorists in the Newcastle CBD must now observe a 40kph speed limit on Hunter Street (pictured) and Scott Street between Worth Place and Telford Street. Picture: Darren Pateman.
BE AWARE: Motorists in the Newcastle CBD must now observe a 40kph speed limit on Hunter Street (pictured) and Scott Street between Worth Place and Telford Street. Picture: Darren Pateman.

MOTORISTS from Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast - who aren't familiar with the changes to driving conditions in Newcastle caused by the light rail system - would do well to take extra care around the city's CBD.

Officers from Police Transport Command, Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and Newcastle Police District have been regularly patrolling around the Hunter Street transport system since it went live on February 18.

Northern Region Traffic Tactician Chief Inspector Amanda Calder said officers have observed a number of dangerous incidents putting the lives of not only drivers at risk, but also bystanders and light rail commuters.

"The light rail has been up and running for more than a month and the vast majority of people are aware of the changed road network and have adapted to the changes," Chief Inspector Calder said.

"There are some drivers who are not paying attention and are making serious mistakes with their actions endangering themselves and others along Hunter Street and Stewart Avenue.

"Officers from Traffic and Highway Patrol have observed several near-misses during this first month of operation, with the most common offences being vehicles driving on the tram tracks; running red lights at light rail crossings; and pedestrians - who are often distracted and looking at their phones - jaywalking across the tracks."

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She gave the example of one motorist who got it all wrong.

"One driver was seen by police to drive onto the rail track on Hunter Street, cross to the wrong side of the road, and drive into the path of an oncoming tram before proceeding through a red light before police could stop the car," Chief Inspector Calder said.

The Newcastle Transport website advises there are new signs, traffic lights and road markings across the city centre which show how drivers, cyclists and pedestrians should behave around light rail vehicles and tracks.

Motorists are being urged to pay attention and follow the signage that spells out how to behave when sharing the roads with light rail vehicles. Picture: Marina Neil.

Motorists are being urged to pay attention and follow the signage that spells out how to behave when sharing the roads with light rail vehicles. Picture: Marina Neil.

"A 40kph speed limit is in place for all vehicles, including light rail, on Hunter and Scott streets between Worth Place and Telford Street," the website said.

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.

Police are encouraging motorists to use their common sense and take their time on the roads to adapt to the new road conditions.

"We're asking the community to not let these issues become long-term habits, be safe and alert at all times when near the light rail network," Chief Inspector Calder said.

For more information on the Newcastle Light Rail visit newcastletransport.info/light-rail.

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