22 June 2023

BREAKING: Cooke calls for end to impasse at Wallendbeen Bridge

| Edwina Mason
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Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke: “The local community absolutely deserves better and needs to be provided with an assurance this important piece of infrastructure will be in place by the end of the year.” Photo: Steph Cooke.

Unresolved access arrangements between Transport for NSW (TfNSW) and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) have halted bridge rebuilding efforts on a major traffic corridor which connects the state’s food bowl with key markets.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has called on the two bodies to resolve an impasse which has stalled the Wallendbeen Bridge replacement project on Burley Griffin Way.

Burley Griffin Way – a key route on the network linking the Hume Highway to the Riverina and the Olympic and Newell Highways – is primarily used to transport the agricultural produce of the western Riverina and Murrumbidgee regions and markets such as Sydney.

Transport for NSW is building the new permanent rail bridge following the emergency removal of the existing bridge in March 2021 due to severe damage sustained during a wet weather event.

By June that year work had begun to install a temporary single-lane, prefabricated structure which opened in October 2021.

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The seven-month closure of the bridge and Burley Griffin Way gave rise to regional transport industry concerns around the cost, in time and fuel, of having to divert around the gap in the road network.

The diversions had increased travel time for some companies by up to 40 minutes.

Locally, concerns focused on increased heavy traffic moving through the small village and the ability of the temporary one-lane structure to handle heavy transport.

At the time Ms Cooke said this solution was simply a short-term stopgap measure ahead of a new permanent structure already in a design phase.

This week she said construction of the permanent bridge commenced in November 2022 and was anticipated to take 12 months.

“Works on site have been at a standstill since March, with no community engagement since the NSW Government went into caretaker mode back in February,” Ms Cooke said.

“Many residents and primary producers rely on this route to travel to work and school, and to transport goods.

“The local community absolutely deserves better and needs to be provided with an assurance this important piece of infrastructure will be in place by the end of the year.”

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In response to a Question on Notice from Ms Cooke in the first parliamentary sitting week, the Minister for Regional Transport Jenny Aitchison confirmed contractors were last on site on 31 March 2023.

“I had the opportunity to speak with the Minister directly about the impact of any delays to the project for the community, which I understand are due to unresolved access arrangements between TfNSW and ARTC,” Ms Cooke said.

“I am therefore urging for a resolution to this issue to be achieved as soon as possible, and I am pleased TfNSW are looking to host another community information session in Wallendbeen soon.

The new concrete girder bridge will be the same height as the original bridge, featuring a 30-metre-long bridge deck with an additional six-metre approach on either end, two four-metre-wide traffic lanes, two-metre-wide shoulders and wire mesh safety screens.

UGL Regional Linx, who manages all operations and maintenance on the Country Regional Network (CRN) in NSW, is working with subcontractor Abergeldie to build the new bridge.

Details of the next community information session will be made available soon at Burley Griffin Way Bridge at Wallendbeen | Transport for NSW.

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