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The first of the most obvious things to occur in the design of the Newcastle Supercars street circuit has happened. They’re changing the circuit layout.

Reported by The Newcastle Herald on Thursday, the track will no longer bisect Pacific Park, in Newcastle’s east end.

The reason given, according to Supercars spokesman Nick Johnston, was that “organisers had listened to feedback from the community when deciding to change the layout.”

The circuit will run through Newcastle's Pacific Park

Of course. Apparently a plan to cut an area of local green-space in half is something that didn’t seem like a bad idea until the locals went “hey, wait up a minute.”

Apparently designing a race track within a residential area that already has a strong dislike for any change to take place around them is hard. Who knew?

How the circuit design will change has not been announced yet. According to The Herald, that will come “next month”.

But what will those changes be? The current location of the circuit only provides a couple of options. And each come with their own new set of issues.

Let’s go to the maps.

The first option is to run the track down Pacific Street to Scott Street, before turning right and rejoining the current proposed circuit.


google_maps-2

While this is the simplest solution, it is also the one that is going to quickly hit trouble.

The part of Scott Street that runs along the northern edge of Pacific Park is currently earmarked to be end of the line for Newcastle’s proposed light rail service.

The timeline currently given by Transport for NSW shows that construction of the line is due to start in 2017, with completion slated for 2019.

15120_nlr_summarybrochure_pdf__page_3_of_4_

While the circuit might escape being in the construction zone for the initial running of the event, that will be the only time. By the time Supercars get around to racing in Newcastle in 2018, that area will be a construction zone for the light rail line.

The second option is to have the circuit turn right onto Ocean Street, which runs along the southern edge of Pacific Park. From there, it would continue onto Shortland Esplanade near Newcastle Beach, turn left onto Zara Street then rejoin the proposed layout with a right-hand turn back onto Scott Street.

google_maps

The problems here? You’re adding more houses into the circuit footprint. You’re closing more roads. You’re creating further impediments to access to Newcastle beach at a time of year when people are considering getting back into the surf.

There is a third option, but it is way too stupid to properly contemplate. That involves extending Telford Street through to the intersection of Ocean Street and Shortland Esplanade, and having the circuit run around there. But that won’t – that can’t – happen.

The problems with the proposed Newcastle Supercars street circuit will not end here. Once details emerge of the works required around Nobbys Beach and Foreshore Park become known, you can expect local opposition to the event to ratchet up further.

It remains a bad idea to locate the circuit in the east end of Newcastle. It is not an area that is suitable to host a motor race. Nowhere, other than perhaps Monaco, do you see a race run through suburban, residential streets.

Holding the race here is putting having one nice helicopter TV shot above the needs of creating a successful and sustainable event.


Oh, and a short post-script.

I received a comment on my first piece.

Garry writes: “It’s people like you that nothing goes ahead in Newcastle Between you and the Greenies every thing wont go a head your a dick head go back under your rock. Fool”

Garry, I don’t think you quite understand my opposition to the race. I want the race to be in Newcastle. I want the race to be next to the harbour. I want it to be a visual and racing spectacular.

I don’t want it in the east end. The circuit layout is bad for racing. The location is bad for not giving the people who live there the shits.

If they want the Newcastle 500 to be a great event, it cannot be held where they are proposing.

I cannot argue the “your a dick head” bit though. Nail on the head there, mate.

NSW Premier Mike Baird and Virgin Australia Supercars Championship (VASC) CEO James Warburton today confirmed that Newcastle would be hosting the final race of the domestic touring car season for at least five years starting in 2017.

Messers Baird and Warburton also confirmed that they intend the race to be run on a street circuit situated at the eastern end of the Newcastle CBD(ish) area – east of Watt Street, and long the Wharf Road frontage of Foreshore Park.

Predictably, all involved are excited at the prospect.

“It’s a cool spot,” offered series regular Mark (Helmet) Winterbottom.

“It’s a picturesque course,” said Premiere Baird.

“The Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will be a spectacular event,” was the claim from Warburton.

It’s all lovely and wonderful. Of course it is.

The event is also going to “inject” $57 million of “economic injection” for Newcastle over the five years of the deal. Because of course it will. It is long documented that the economic benefits of major sport events is true and real and not at all a completely made up number.

And the even will also attract 81,000 people “from around NSW” for the event. Presumably, they won’t be stamping passports to allow safe passage through Stockton for those arriving by plane. We were not told if the 81,000 was per year or over five years.

The big part of the story, however, was the revealing of the proposed circuit layout for the race.

At official announcement this morning, it was revealed the proposed Newcastle 500 layout will be a variation on one of the layouts mooted earlier in the year.

The proposed VASC street circuit in Newcastle

This particular proposed layout was not good – I detailed exactly why here – and yet somehow VASC, the NSW Government and Newcastle City Council have managed to take it and mangle it into something even worse.

There are two new areas of concern with the new layout.

First, the track is going to bisect Pacific Park. That will mean digging up a significant chunk of the parkland there and replacing it with a road wide enough for the Supercars to race on.

Now, Pacific Park is already likely to undergo some changes when (if, but that’s another story) the Newcastle Light Rail project eventually comes to that part of town, but nothing like what is being proposed for this race.

The circuit will run through Newcastle's Pacific Park

The track is also going to severely restrict access from the bus stops located on Hunter Street and at the former Newcastle station to Newcastle Beach because of the takeover of Pacific Park.

If you’re looking to build goodwill with a community and create an event that people are going to get on-board with…this isn’t it.

It gets worse, though, when you look at the final half-dozen or so corners of the proposed layout. These corners are located within the green space area adjacent to Nobbys Beach.

Again, the proposed layout does not use existing roads – as you typically expect with a “street circuit” – instead proposing to remove ocean-adjacent green space and replace it with tarmac to drive cars on.

The circuit will just about take over the reserve at Nobbys Beach

It’s madness to think that any of this is a good idea. This proposed layout is going to achieve nothing but put people offside.

If you want your event to succeed, you can’t start by making sure everyone in and around it is pissed off at you.

The proposal that we have seen is short-sighted and, frankly, exploitative. Newcastle should not have to sacrifice prime parkland in order to host the Supercars season finale.

Rendering of the proposed Newcastle Supercars street circuit

Now they’re saying that the final circuit design is subject to community consultation and the like, but with only 15 months between now and the first race in November 2017, there is not a lot of time to back-and-forth about the layout before the logistics of hosting a Supercars round need to be worked out.

I suppose we can at least be happy it’s not Wayne Russell’s “let’s close three major arterial roads” circuit.

It would seem the story that has been kicking around for as long as I can remember is finally going to come to a head: Newcastle will be getting a (V8) Supercar race, starting in 2017.

Though not confirmed yet, talk is strong that Australia’s premier motor racing series will arrive in the Steel City following the conclusion of the Sydney 500 event at Olympic Park in Homebush after this year’s event.

While I have no doubt the event will be successful – even in spite of the known fact that “economic benefit” numbers of major sporting events are complete bullshit and devoid of all meaning.

I do not, however, think the race is going to happen on the layout touted today in the Newcastle Herald.

Bid_to_lure_V8s_to_city __poll___Newcastle_Herald

There are a couple of reasons why.

First up, the pit lane. The concept circuit has the pit lane running east along Wharf Road adjacent to Foreshore Park.

In order to get a pit lane in that space, a significant chunk of that green space along the road side will need to be dug up. That is unlikely to happen.

Look at the Surfers Paradise street circuit the Supercars currently (and IndyCar/Champ Car previously) race on. There’s some 20-30m of concrete car park there that runs for a good few hundred metres. It houses the pit lane and garages used during race weekends.

Google_Maps

Compare that to Foreshore Park where, sure, there is carpark, but it isn’t continuous. Making it long enough to house the pits will require the removal of a number of trees and green parkland.

Google_Maps

That won’t be popular, and it’s guaranteed to raise the ire of the locals.

Speaking of the locals, this brings up the second issue: local response to the plans.

The residents of Newcastle East have a demonstrated hatred of pretty much anything that involves changing Newcastle in any way, shape or form.

There is no way that they are going to accept being closed in by a race track for two or three months while it is built and then removed. It will be even worse on the race weekend itself when for an entire four or five days the roads will be closed completely, meaning there is practically zero chance of being able to drive your car in or out.

That’s not even mentioning that the entirety of Foreshore Park is likely to be closed off for a fair amount of time during the event, with access to Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Beach and the breakwall likely to also be restricted.

Thirdly, there’s the racing line.

The Newcastle Herald’s circuit is fast, flowing and has a reasonable amount of elevation change, with a couple of chicanes thrown in for good measure.

It’s going to be shit for racing Supercars.

Turn 1, Nobby’s Chicane, will be the sort where you don’t so much brake heavily then turn it as you do roll the car’s momentum through the corner. Getting cars side-by-side coming out of the Wharf Road pit straight to effect an overtaking manoeuvre is unlikely to happen.

You might get cars side-by-side along The Esplanade towards Newcastle Ocean Baths, but the right-hand bend in the road as it crests the runs down towards Newcastle Beach isn’t going to be somewhere anyone will be wanting to stick the nose of their car.

Coming past the beach, Church Street is narrow and climbs towards the right-hander at Watt Street, near Newcastle police station. Again, the chances of chucking it down the inside are slim to none.

The Watt Street Chicane (at the intersection of King Street) could be a chance, but that depends on how the chicane is designed. The details of which are not provided.

From there, the circuit continues down Watt Street past Newcastle Station and Customs House Hotel before, once again, turning right back onto Wharf Road to complete the lap.

The final turn also does not look promising as an overtaking spot, as the braking zone will be on the right-hand side of the circuit so the cars can straight-line the slight left kink into the roundabout, before proceeding around it and back onto the straight.

I can see the appeal of this circuit. Harbour on one side, ocean on the other. The helicopter shots alone are enough to get someone excited about how it will look on TV.

But the Supercars need a track you can race on, not one that just drives past things that are interesting. That lesson should have been learnt when the V8s went to Canberra (remember that track? Admittedly it did give up the greatest V8 Supercar highlight even seen) and then reinforced with the Olympic Park circuit.

(I am excluding the godawful goat track that is Winton because it’s a permanent facility, not a street circuit. Still terrible, but permanent).

There is, however, an area of Newcastle that Your Humble Correspondent considers just about perfect for hosting a Supercars race. And that’s Honeysuckle.

I even drew a map.

newcastle-v8-track

Indulge me as I explain why

1) Better facilities

The north side of Honeysuckle Drive is largely a barren wasteland. Developing a semi-permanent pit facility would actually help that area. Whatever building is placed there could be used for other activities outside of the race weekend.

This is currently want happens with the Albert Park pit complex in Melbourne. When the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix isn’t on, the building houses the Albert Park Indoor Sports Centre.

Other benefit is a far more picturesque paddock area. It would open out on the harbour and generally be quite a nice place.

Having a number of undeveloped lots would also allow the construction of temporary grandstands, which would you struggle to fit in around the concept circuit.

The Civic Station carpark could be used as a paddock area for support races as well.

2) Fewer disgruntled residents

This one is pure numbers, but the number of people who would be directly inconvenienced as a result of holding the race in Honeysuckle is significantly fewer than the Herald’s concept layout.

Instead of roping off an entire suburb, you’re getting in the way of a few apartments. Sure they already complain about the noise coming from the entertainment precinct they chose to live in, but still. There’s fewer of them.

3) It fits the Honeysuckle precinct better

While Foreshore Park is a lovely bit of green space nestled between the harbour, the beach and Fort Scratchley it is not the area that is ideal to hold a car race.

By moving the race into the Honeysuckle precinct the opportunity exists to create an area that would be much more enjoyable for fans of the race.

The existing entertainment area (bars, mostly) could be utilised to improve the food and beverage offerings that are often present at these events.

By bringing local businesses into the event, rather than trying to compete against them by creating your own, you better place your race to deliver on those always-rubbery “economic benefits” major events proclaim but rarely deliver.

The existing undeveloped lots could also be utilised for race-related events such as car displays, stunt driving and other activities.

Everything will be central, easy to access and do something with an area that is still waiting to be developed into what has been promised by local developers.

4) Circuit layout

Finally, a Honeysuckle-based circuit would be more likely to produce an interesting race, something the concept circuit does not look like it would.

Wider streets, fewer flowing corners and heavier braking zones are what touring cars need in order to best effect overtaking.

This could be purely subjective, but I believe my proposed circuit provides for these things and, thus, better racing.

Moving the race away from the foreshore and back towards Honeysuckle improves the chances of the Newcastle race being an actual success, and not just a “success because every new race on the calendar is a success regardless of how well it really does”.

UPDATE: 14/07/2016

There’s been another little twist in this story today.

An alternate layout, comprising a square-ish circuit around Hunter Stadium and surrounds, has been proposed by Wayne Russel.

Here it is.

newcastle-track-stadium

Now, this is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First off, Wayne wants to close three major arterial roads in Broadmeadow for a weekend and that couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Second, the track is a bloody square.

Third, it’s still located within a major residential area.

The fourth point is, perhaps the most interesting.

Wayne Russel is not only a former V8 Supercar driver (his son, Aaren, currently competes in the series for Erebus Motorsport) but also happens to own Go-Karts-Go, which is conveniently located smack bang in the middle of his proposed circuit.

Make of that what you will.

If you want people to come and work for you, paying them for that work should really go without saying.

Unpaid internships — occasionally billed as “work experience” or “an opportunity for exposure, or other similar words — are a cancer that needs to be removed from the Australian work landscape.

It’s really quite simple. They are exploitative, they are pure evil and, in a lot of cases, they are downright illegal.

This has been something of a crusade for me over the last few years. While I was studying at uni there were endless “opportunities” presented to me to get my writing out there. To build up a reputation and to gain so-called invaluable experience as to how my chosen field operates in our modern, ultra-competitive world.

In return, all I had to do was be willing to bend over and make sure to leave the lubricants at home.

One only needs to glance at the various online job boards to see the extent of this problem. Pedestrian.tv is a perfect example. Even the most superficial examination of the positions listed there offer everything under the sun. Except cash money compensation for your work.

Today, Junkee (part of the Sound Alliance group which includes familiar sites such as FasterLouder and Same Same) put up a post advertising for “three super keen and talented students, who are keen to get some experience in social media, marketing or events”.

The positions offered were for “three months from mid-April, with a one-day-per-week commitment, at the Sound Alliance office in Sydney’s Surry Hills”.

Sounds good, right? Wrong.

What was offered was in fact a place in their “unpaid internship program”.

Fair Work Australia, the government body that oversees employer/employee relationships, is pretty clear on what constitutes an actual internship or vocational placement — which are perfectly legal and should be encouraged — and what companies, like Junkee, are offering.

The test is quite simple.

According to Fair Work Australia: “A vocational placement is a formal work experience arrangement that is part of an education or training course.”

The positions offered by Junkee fail this test immediately. From what was posted on their ad, there is no formal relationship between Junkee and any sort of educational institution. You simply apply, and if they like you enough you can go and work there. And not get paid.

Fair Work Australia continues: “Where an unpaid work arrangement is not a vocational placement, the arrangement can only be lawful if no employment relationship exists”

What is an employment relationship?

Fair Work Australia again:

- The parties intend to create a legally binding arrangement
- There is a commitment to perform work for the benefit of the business or organisation
- The person performing the work is to get something in return (which might be just experience or training)
- The person must not be performing the work as part of a business of their own.

The big one here is the second point: “to perform work for the benefit of the business or organisation”.

According to what Junkee is advertising, the tasks accepted candidates will be doing include:

- "Sourcing images, content creation, community management, brainstorming strategy ideas and responding to fan enquires, assisting with reporting plus broad administrative support to the entire team" if they are the social media intern.
- "management of website content, newsletters, social media support, building PR contact lists, event support plus broad administrative support to the entire team. In particular you’ll be working across the inthemix Awards, Electronic Music Conference and other projects for Junkee, AWOL and FasterLouder" if they are the marketing and communications intern, and
- "sourcing supplier quotes, support with pre-event documents, assisting onsite at events, writing creative briefs, assisting in brainstorms for new ideas plus broad administrative support to the entire team" if they are accepted as the event management intern.

It is pretty clear that everything listed there is a task that would ordinarily be undertaken by a paid employee as part of their relevant position description.

Returning to Fair Work Australia, we can see that an employment relation exists when:

“Is the work normally performed by paid employees? Does the business or organisation need this work to be done? The more integral the work is to the function of the business, the more likely it is that an employment relationship could be found.”

This isn’t rocket science.

When you want people to come and work for your company, you should pay them. As has been pointed out by plenty of others over the last few years.

Earlier this year, the Federal Circuit Court fined Melbourne-based Crocmedia $24,000 over their use of unpaid interns.

According to The Age, Fair Work Australia told the court that “because the pair had performed productive work for the company that was not a formal part of their university studies they were entitled to be paid minimum wages”.

The Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, was also quoted in the article, saying, “When a worker moves beyond merely learning and observing and starts assisting with business outputs and productivity, workplace laws dictate that the worker must be paid minimum employee entitlements”.

In handing down the punishment, Judge Reithmuller wrote, “Profiting from ‘volunteers’ is not acceptable conduct within the industrial relations scheme applicable in Australia”.

So there it is.

If what you are offering is not associated directly with a particular course of study at a particular educational institution, and what the “intern” will be doing is fulfilling the role of what would ordinarily be a paid position, you are exploiting people. You are possibly acting outside the law.

You are a cancer.

In Japan, if you want to travel between cities you head to the train station and board the ever-efficient Shinkansen bullet train.

In New South Wales, if you want to travel between the state’s two biggest cities – Sydney and Newcastle – you head to the train station and board the not-quite-as-efficient Central Coast and Newcastle intercity train service, affectionately known as the Shitkansen.

VALUE

A single trip on the Shitkansen is priced at $8.10 and takes approximate two and three-quarter hours if you travel the full distance.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it's a one-way ticket to the camps.

Cheap travel for boomers? As long as it’s a one-way ticket to the camps.

If you have an Opal card and leave before 6.00am, after 6.30pm or between 7.30am and 4.00pm the trip is priced at $5.67. It’s a nice discount if you are willing to live with a less convenient travel time.

The other bonus for Opal card holders is that if you catch it – or another train – more than eight times, the ninth trip and onwards is free. And free is good.

DESIGN

The original Shitkansen were designated as ‘V’ sets. The V stands for ‘vacuum toilet’; they were the first rolling stock on the state rail network to carry such a luxury.

The distinctive silver box design of the Shitkansen sits in stark contrast to the sleek, aerodynamic shapes of similar trains on overseas networks. Japan’s Shinkansen sports is famous ‘duck-billed platypus’ nose on the front car, and Europe’s TGV/Eurostar trains also have unique shapes to them that give off an aura of speed and modernity.

The external and internal design of the Shitkansen train dates back to the 1970s, when the trains first debuted on the NSW rail network. In fact the exterior has undergone precisely no changes since the first-generation Shitkansen hit the rails.

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

A V-Set Shitkansen arrives at Broadmeadow early on a Monday morning

Internally, the typical-of-the-time Institution Green and Biege colour scheme was kept in place until late 2013 when a refresh of the range saw the introduction of “Bush Plum” purple vinyl seats and carpets in a number of carriages. The new fitout gives the feeling you’re travelling inside a Cadbury chocolate bar, or perhaps the CarsGuide office. It’s different, but not necessarily an improvement.

The Shitkansen is available in either an eight or four car variant, depending on what time you travel.

FEATURES

Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

Sitting down on the Shitkansen is dangerous

The Spartans were known for making do with very little. It’s a quality they undoubtedly picked up from NSW TrainLink.

There’s no club car, no trolly service, no onboard entertainment system, (other passengers excepted) and no electricity – despite it being the train’s propellant of choice.

What you do get is a functional but not overly pleasant seat; the sort you would be ill-advised to subject to inspection under an ultra-violet light.

The seat in front of you provides a retractable foot-rest, although finding a comfortable seating position is a challenge whether it is used or not.

The numerous windows adorning either side of the carriage allow the passage of natural light, albeit filtered through a decent film of grime or any number of unique etchings installed by the train’s artistic community.

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down

In the words of Mr Squiggle: Upside down, upside down

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The Shitkansen is an electric train.

Each four car set comprises two driving cars and two trailer cars. This allocation is obviously doubled when doubled into an eight-car train.

Exact power figures are unknown, but given how the Shitkansen drives, power output is likely to be a modest figure.

The ’sprint’ from 0-100km/h is best described as…not quick. We would go as far to suggest that it is more likely the heat death of the universe would occur before a Shitkansen’s velocity broke into the triple digits.

As is true with most machines, the Shitkansen today are slower today compared to when they first entered service. Even the more modern ‘OSCAR’ versions of the Shitkansen are slower than previous services. Make of that what you will.

SAFETY

The most obvious safety feature of the Shitkansen is the regularity at which it stops operating normally in adverse weather conditions. A hint of rain at the Shitkansen often finds itself grinding to a halt.

Think of it like an aeroplane – take offs are optional, landing is compulsory. The best way to avoid an accident in less than optimal conditions is to simply not operate in those conditions.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Locked off emergency brakes.

Other than that, for passengers there are no airbags and no seat belts. In the event of the train departing the tracks, there is not a lot to stop you getting thrown around the carriage.

There is an emergency brake switch located in each carriage, however on our train we noticed it was bolted closed – making its operation in an emergency problematic.

The other safety-related aspect of the Shitkansen trip are the other passengers.

There are jokes about the demographics and socio-economic status of the passengers often found onboard this particular train we could make. However, we are going to just simply say if you are wanting to see a demonstration of the effects assorted mind-altering substances can have on people, the Shitkansen is a cost-effective way to do it.

RIDING

Straight up: this is not the most comfortable form of transport you will ever come across.

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

Cleanliness is far from Shitkanseness

The experience of the Shitkansen trip between Newcastle and Sydney is best described as sitting somewhere between a long-haul international flight in cattle-class and crowding into an all-too-small car with the entire family for a trip up the coast.

There is never enough leg room and you cannot recline the seats. Standing up to alight the train at the end of the journey is a glorious experience.

The train itself, thankfully, sticks to the rails quite well. Some jostling can occur at higher speeds which bring to mind feelings of being on a boat in choppy seas, but overall things are quite smooth.

It is entirely possible to nap through the entire trip, which makes the nearly 180-minute travel time more bearable. That said, you neck may not appreciate that as much as the rest of you, so bring a pillow to ease the pain.

VERDICT

Overall, the Sydney to Newcastle train is a triumph of function over form, with a healthy dose of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ added in.

For a single person travelling between either city, it is cost-effective and, to a certain extent, relatively timely. However, once your trip involved a second or third person, take the car. It’s just generally nicer.

Three stars.

I pay money, where is train?

I pay money, where is train?

UPDATE: Noble Patriot @rpy has advised my notations about off-peak Opal fares were slightly incorrect. He is a massive prick.