WHAT if a couple of serious business operators offered solutions to two of Newcastle’s most intractable transport headaches, while building two major new wealth-creating enterprises in the city?
Nanjing Night Net

That’s what appears to be on the cards this week, with big ideas put forward by coal baron and sports supporter Nathan Tinkler and by cosmetic surgeon and property investor Jerry Schwartz.

Mr Tinkler – who badly wants to be allowed to develop his own coal-loader on former BHP land at Mayfield – has flagged the prospect of his organisation duplicating the Tourle Street bridge and upgrading Cormorant Road, on Kooragang Island, as well as realigning a section of suburban freight rail line to reduce impacts on residents.

Mr Schwartz – who owns the Crowne Plaza hotel on Newcastle Harbour and has just bought a big block of land opposite for a major new development – has suggested incorporating an underground railway station into his plan.

There will be objections to both ideas, but both deserve to be examined closely.

The Tinkler proposal flies in the face of an established plan to use the old BHP site to help the Port of Newcastle diversify away from coal. But perhaps the city could be persuaded to reconsider that strategic goal in return for sufficiently valuable transport improvements. Upgrading the road and bridge would relieve a serious bottleneck and improve travel times to and from Newcastle Airport.

The Schwartz proposal has no obvious downside and plenty of positives.

If, for example, the eastern end of the city rail line from west of Wickham was dug below ground level, the Stewart Avenue overpass would never be required. The line could be bridged at existing road level wherever necessary. It could, indeed, be built over.

It might be possible to create a new city rail terminus at Centenary Road, a location that would be convenient for Honeysuckle, the new legal precinct, the museum and the proposed city campus of the university.

Novocastrians will instantly recognise the potential advantages – and the potential controversy – of such a possibility.

Whether the line was dug in or buried only as far as Centenary Road or all the way to Newcastle Station, the state government would be expected to pay for the work. Sounds like a job for Mr O’Farrell’s Hunter Infrastructure Fund.

Newcastle awards

THE 2011 Newcastle Community Awards recognise a variety of contributions to the city’s well-being.

Former Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress John and Margaret McNaughton – both extraordinarily active in public life when in office – remain high profile citizens and their naming as “Freemen of the City” will be widely appreciated.

Tireless advocate for environmental sustainability, Mr Peter Dormand, is an equally worth recipient of the City of Newcastle Medal. These, and all the other recipients of awards, can be assured of the sincere gratitude of their fellow-Novocastrians.