Map - courtesy of Newcastle City Council.
16km of Fernleigh Track is complete!
2006 - 2007 News
2004 - 2005 News
Work should start this month on Stage 3 of the Fernleigh Track from Whitebridge to Redhead. The winning tenderer, Site Worx Civil Contracting, had the lowest price bid of the 4 local contractors who tendered. The construction, valued finally at around $2.7m is expected to be finished this year and, depending on weather, may be finished as soon as October 2009.
Lake Macquarie Council also intends applying for $2m funding under the recently announced Federal Jobs Fund. The aim is to gain sufficient funding from this source, Coastal Cycleway, RTA along with Council commitments to allow the final stages to Belmont to be completed. The total funding needed is in the order of $4m. LMCC is confident of meeting the late May deadline for submissions and NCM will be providing a letter of support for the application.
to Aug 2007: Stage
3 . . . and beyond
The last 12
months has seen Lake Macquarie Council progressing work on Stage 3 of
Fernleigh. Design work for the full Stage has been completed. Funding
is in place for the first part of this. Stage 3a will extend the track
from Whitebridge to Oakdale Road at a cost of around $1.2m. The second
part, Stage 3b, will go from Oakdale Road to Cowlishaw Street Redhead.
It is hoped that Stage 3 will be completed in 2008.
2007 saw the first special public event held on the Track. The inaugural Fernleigh Track Challenge saw the track closed for part of the day while a competition for small electric vehicles took place. The Fernleigh Track Challenge showcased a number of home-built and commercially available vehicles with the aim of having fun with and learning about small powered personal transportation. The event was run under the auspices of Rotary Charlestown and it is hoped to run a second competition in 2008.
Thanks to Ian Broadfoot
Progress has not been without its hiccups
The maintenance agreement between the two councils has still not been signed. Of more significance than this, however, was a near impasse on funding for the track. Fernleigh Track Management Committee had decided to build the next stage from Belmont to Jewells. Many NCC councillors were unwilling to accept this position.
NCM had spoken with Lord Mayor Greg Piper and held a meeting with Lord Mayor John Tate. We sought to encourage both councils to reach agreement so that the track could progress. This now appears to have been resolved. John Jenkins invited both Lord Mayors Greg Piper and John Tate to attend the August meeting of the Committee. The meeting again canvassed the pros and cons of building Whitebridge to Redhead next vs. Belmont to Jewells. A new vote was taken when it became clear that NCC were unlikely to accept the original agreement. A significant majority voted for the Whitebridge to Redhead option.
NCC will now seek to have funding included in their quarterly budget review. LMCC has already committed $200,000 plus in next financial year. This decision has been made public and seems likely to result in funding being made available from both councils this year.
There is still a big question mark as to whether equivalent state funding will be available, given a major cut in the Cycleway budget at State level this year. DIPNR could also be approached as a possible source of funds. Stage 3 will, therefore, require at least two financial years to complete.
The next year's challenge will be to secure funding from State Government, and to ensure an ongoing budget allocation locally. The Committee has discussed the need to keep the track in a positive public light in both council areas. It could be helpful for NCM to lobby State and local ALP members to adopt a consistent and unified approach to cycleway funding with Fernleigh as our No1 priority.
At the current rate of progress there is a need for approximately 4 or 5 million dollars to build the remaining track. Depending on State Dollar-for-dollar funding, we would be looking at completion any time between 2010 and 2015.
I took these plans along to the last NCM meeting and will bring them next time too for anyone who wants to check them out. I have let the Committee know that I believe the plans are in line with the original management plan for the track and could be used as a base for final design without the need for any further inspection / delay by the committee.
Track (Stage 1) wins a Keep Australia Beautiful
The tunnel under the Pacific Highway was opened to public use on Christmas Eve 2002. A great present for the people of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. The finishing touches were completed during January 2003 and the official opening was on Sunday 2nd February 2003. The opening was a great community event, showing the popularity of the track to people on bikes and foot of all ages. The NSW Government, Newcastle City Council, Lake Macquarie Council and the Fernleigh Track Committee should be congratulated on the completion of this first stage. The quality and width of the track as well as the use of appropriate signage and track centre-line marking make this the model for all other cycleways and shared pathways to follow.Where to From Burwood Road?
The completion of the Track to Belmont is a joint responsibility between Newcastle City Council and Lake Macquarie Council. To help speed the process, you can assist NCM, by letting your local councillors know how much you appreciate the work that has been done, and how important you feel the speedy completion of the whole track is.2002 News
Last year's Fernleigh Track progress was marked by a shift from procurement of land and general planning towards specific groundwork for commencement of the actual work.
This year has seen major progress towards reopening of the tunnel and the track leading to and from it. Some of the highlights have been:
Most significantly, work is under way on the refurbishment of the tunnel.
Newcastle City Council arranged an inspection of tunnel construction on 9 August. The contractor indicated that work was on schedule for completion in November 2002. So far the Contractors have:
Around 19 August work on the track itself is expected to commence at the Adamstown end. The aim is to build the cycleway to around Kinross Avenue while the tunnel work continues. Once the tunnel contractor is finished there will then be a minimal amount of work needed to finish the final sections leading to the tunnel.
One major plus mentioned at the inspection is that the NCC will be building this first section of the track at 3.5 metre width. This is in line with the original management plan for the track and NECK.
The contractor will shortly commence the rock bolting work and the labour intensive task of brick repairs and repointing will be under way.
The railway line connecting the eastern suburbs of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle via the Adamstown Junction has played a major part in the history of this area for more than a century. in the 1890's, the line was used to haul coal from the mines between Redhead and Adamstown, and after much community agitation, it was used for passenger trains to the mines in the area, particularly between the towns of Dudley and Redhead.
It was in December 1916 that the first official passenger train ran to Belmont. In April 1971 the regular service ceased with the closure of the Belmont, Redhead and Whitebridge Stations. On March 12, 1988 the last coal train left the John Darling Colliery spur line following the closure of that mine. This left the line south of Lambton B Colliery at Redhead dormant and the track was torn up leaving only they ballast and hard packed rail bed as evidence of the history of its service. In December 1991, the last coal was hauled over the line from Redhead. This ended the long and colourful history of rail transport on the eastern side of the Lake
We are interested in the retention of the historical aspects of this route. It can be appreciated and utilised by the community most fully by conversion to a shared pedestrian/cycleway that will form a major part of the integrated cycle network in our region and an important recreational and commuter route.
The railway corridor has been purchased by the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Councils. The northern end of the former railway bed is already being extensively used by walkers and cyclists as both a recreational route as well as a commuting route. The southern end has become degraded by extensive trail bike use, so that it is eroded and too rough to ride even with a mountain bike. The tunnel under the Pacific Highway at Highfields was closed on 17 April 1996.
The last 10 years had seen the sale of new bicycles in Australia continually exceed the sale of new motor vehicles. A number of our major cities have identified the increased need for cycling facilities to cater for this growth. Surveys conducted by NCM indicate that approximately 4% of trips in our region are by bicycle. This confirmed the information of the August 1991 Census which revealed a similar statistic.
In 1981, the need for a Cycleway linking Belmont and Newcastle was identified in the Newcastle Area Bike Plan commissioned by the then Traffic Authority of New South Wales. This Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Bike Plan is presently being revised and it will identify the Adamstown-Belmont corridor as a Priority 1 Regional Route for cyclists. It will also form an integral link in the coastal cycleway extending form the Victorian border the the Queensland border as proposed by Elias Duek-Cohen and supported by the RTA.
The route choices at present for low stress cycling between Adamstown and Belmont are non existent. Only the hardy and very experienced cyclists use the Pacific Highway as a means of commuting between these two suburbs and on into Newcastle, as most others consider the trip too dangerous. Numerous short cycling trips are done within this area, particularly by school children, and this need will be increased since the government has increased the minimum free bus distance to 2km between home and school.
Safety: The provision of this facility will make a significant reduction in the number of potential bicycle/motor vehicle confrontations. This proposed cycleway will allow the children of the area to cycle in comparative safety to schools and recreational areas along the route
Environment: The increasing use of motor vehicles is adding to the pollution within out region. Notice should be taken of the already alarming problems being experienced in Sydney. An increase in local cycling brought about by the development of this cycleway will go some of the way towards helping our region achieve the reduction in pollution levels agreed to by out Prime Minister at the "Rio Convention" on environmental issues.
Cost: Cycleways do not require huge multi-million dollar community investments in paving and parking stations. As they are low impact paths, they require very little maintenance if properly constructed. The average distance travelled to work by Australian motorists is only 14kms. Given the changes in bicycle technology during the last 10 years with the development of lighter, stronger frames and better gearing systems, this makes such a distance readily able to be travelled on a bicycle by much of the workforce.
Health: Cyclists can ride as slowly, or as hard and fast as they like to suit their own level of fitness. It is known that regular exercise reduces the risks of hear disease and strokes, and if more people are encouraged to ride bicycles, both the individual and the community will benefit from the improved fitness levels of its population; with reduced health costs. It is well documented that regular physical exercise has significant beneficial effects in stress reduction. This 15km route will open up a significant number of avenues for them to undertake their "workouts" in comparative safety.
Tourism: The historical aspects of the rail corridor, it's location along the coastal fringe, and it's safe off-road route connecting coastal communities make it and ideal focus for development of eco-tourism opportunities.
It is the recommendation of NCM that the cycleway should follow the railbed from the former Belmont Station through to Adamstown Station. Connections at both ends are proposed in the Coastline Cycleway, and will extend the route to link with the Blacksmiths and Swansea Cycleway to the south, and connect with the East-West Cycleway to lead into the city to the north. There should be connecting cycleways from Deane Street, Belmont utilising the former spur line to John Darling Colliery and another connecting link utilising the former Dudley spur line. These spur links are an essential integral part of the overall proposal.
The Dudley link will allow children to cycle safely to and from schools at Dudley and Whitebridge. The John Darling link will allow safe cycling access for all of Belmont North/Jewels children who attend schools in the Belmont area. This is in addition to the many commuting and recreational cyclists who would also benefit from these two links to the main route.
NCM believes that the cycleway must continue through the tunnel allowing cyclists to avoid the dangers at the intersection of the Pacific Highway/ Northcott Drive as well as those encountered along Northcott Drive itself.
The railbed provides an even grade that is ideal for cycling. The gradient of the railway is far easier for cyclists than the two steep hill encountered along the highway. These gentle gradients are one of the great benefits of converting closed railway tracks to cycleway, and there is a concerted move throughout Australia to convert disused railway corridors into pedestrian paths and cycleways. The "Rails to Trails" conversions have already benefited residents in many areas of Victoria and other states.
School children: Most bicycle accidents involve school aged children. This plan offers an excellent opportunity to remove numbers of them from bicycle/car confrontations.
Recreational cyclists: The sale of new bicycles continues to exceed that of new cars. This increasing number of both recreational and commuting cyclists need safe, low stress areas to ride.
Commuter cyclists: It would provide a link from the south-east lake area to the industries, Newcastle's western suburbs or east to the Harbour Foreshore and the proposed Honeysuckle Development.
Tourists: With comparatively short additions and connections to other existing cycleways in Newcastle it would be possible to have a cycleway extending from the Shortland wetlands all the way to the Jewells and Belmont wetlands - a route having enormous tourist and recreational attractions.
Pedestrians: The existing railbed is used by many people in the area as a path for their daily walk. We expect that paving of this path will increase the number of people who use this picturesque route for their regular exercise, particularly in the southern sections of the route.