Major improvements to bus, metro, cycle and walking routes into Newcastle city center will be needed to cope with an influx of 9,000 government employees, it has been warned.
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) confirmed this week that it will move thousands of employees from its bases in Longbenton and Washington to a huge office block to be built on the site of the old Odeon cinema in 2027.
It is hoped that the gigantic ‘Pilgrim Quarter’ office relocation, the largest in the city’s history, will also provide a major boost to the revival of shops, restaurants and bars.
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But the city’s Liberal Democrats have warned that the HMRC move will require significant transport upgrades in a time of financial crisis and great uncertainty for the Northeast bus and rail services.
Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus is currently forecasting a budget deficit of £ 20 million next year, while MPs on Wednesday were warned that bus operators in the North East could fall over a financial “cliff edge” without new rescue funding from the government.
Lib Dems pointed out that thousands of employees currently driving to the Longbenton ministry website are unlikely to be able to park in the city center and will need viable alternatives.
City Council Opposition Party spokesman Count Greg Stone said: “The development of the Pilgrim Quarter is very good news in terms of boosting the city center’s economy. Thousands of office workers will generate significant additional demand for retail, bars and restaurants in the city center.
“But it will pose a challenge for thousands of workers who will have to change their journey to work, and it is imperative that the council starts working now with HMRC, Reuben Brothers and Nexus to design and implement a sustainable itinerary. .
“It is extremely unlikely that commuting by car will be possible for the new headquarters, given the lack of parking and existing congestion problems on key routes. But there are very real concerns about the fragility of alternatives to public transport given the current Joint Transport Committee I believe that there is a real challenge ahead if the fear of significant reductions in bus and metro capacity becomes a reality in the coming years.
“Work must begin immediately on a sustainable transport plan for the new headquarters, including active travel links crossing the central motorway and reliable and accessible public transport options for commuters. We expect to see a robust plan for this with significant financial contributions. From HMRC and This will be a key test of a declared commitment to support the renewal of the city center. “
Taras Properties, a development agency acting on behalf of billionaire Reuben Brothers, is behind the regeneration of Pilgrim Street.
The Odeon site, which currently houses the Stack freight container site, was originally earmarked for a $ 200 million leisure, shopping and residential complex. GBP, before city council chiefs urged developers to redraw the plans following the devastating impact of the pandemic on Newcastle’s existing retail centers such as Eldon Square.
The northern part of Pilgrim Street is also due to become a pedestrian under the city council’s plans for a major rejig of the city center bus routes, whose key element is the closure of Blackett Street.
Nexus said it was already talking to HMRC staff ahead of the switch from Longbenton to Pilgrim’s Quarter, at which point a new £ 360 million metro fleet would be in operation and train frequency increased across the system.
Customer Service Director Huw Lewis added: “The Pilgrim Street Quarter will also be very well served by buses from across the region and could not be better located to help encourage commuters to use their cars less and sustainable transport more, increasing passenger numbers.
“What we need now is for the government to recognize that public transport will be crucial in getting people to what will be its largest single public service building in the country, and that the metro and buses will be supported with additional funding after March. 2022, as we end our recovery from the pandemic. ”
Labor councilor Ged Bell, city councilor’s cabinet member for development, transport and neighborhoods, said local leaders would “ensure that this office relocation is sustainable and well served by public transport, walking and cycling routes”.
He added: “As part of the planning process, the developer will submit a detailed itinerary that looks at the potential impact on travel patterns, and further improvements or changes will be considered as part of this process.
“While public transport operators are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic on passenger numbers, we believe this development will encourage more people – who may currently be traveling to work by car – to use public transport.”
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