24 March 2023

Damaged Murrumbateman Road now tipped to reopen next month

| Sally Hopman
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Damaged road

The damaged culvert on the Murrumbateman Road photographed in October 2022. Weather and work crew shortages have delayed its repair. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

Access to the popular Murrumbateman wineries trail should be back to normal next month, six months since a damaged culvert closed the Murrumbateman Road to most traffic.

Yass Valley Council has received constant complaints from residents and visitors who say they have been unable to access the area since the culvert over Broken Dam Creek was damaged by torrential rain in October 2022. But a storm later that month and another subsequent dump of rain, damaged the new work and postponed the scheduled additional work.

It was estimated at the time that the repairs would take about eight weeks but another storm, on 18 February, also damaged new work and delayed the schedule again. With the new completion day moved to March, this again was hit when the contractors advised YVC they were short of specialist contractors to do the job.

General manager of YVC, Chris Berry, said he was aware how the Murrumbateman Road closure had inconvenienced locals and forced visitors from the South Coast to Canberra to face a longer journey.

He said he’d received many complaints about delays in reopening the road but said it was not simply a matter of fixing the culvert. The problem was much bigger than that: the culvert work needed a specialist crew which was contracted by the YVC.

“We issued an update on the situation on 14 March when the contractor told us they had a shortage of staff and couldn’t get a crew out here to do the job,” he said.

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“It’s not just a question of council recruiting people to do the work, these staff shortages are a regional-wide problem, in fact a state problem.”

“For council, the most important issue is public safety. We can’t open the road when it would leave us open to public liability.”

Mr Berry said the latest opening date from the contractors was early April, and that, again, would be subject to the weather.

“I do understand the frustration of locals and businesses,” he said. “But safety is, and has to be, our number one issue.

“We have been suggesting that they advise their customers that there are alternative routes for clients to get to their businesses.”

Mr Berry said road signs advising drivers of the closures had been tweaked a number of times since the culvert was first damaged in October 2022, to help visitors get to where they needed to go.

He said the council website was also regularly updated with progress reports – “but I accept that not everyone looks at the website and that many just drive out here and take a chance that the road they want to use will be open.

“I would have loved the repairs to have been completed weeks ago, but we’ve had these issues with the contractor and with the equipment available.

Damaged road

The significant damage caused by the flooding underneath the culvert. Photo: Yass Valley Council.

“We’re trying to manage these difficulties, I know it has been painful for everyone.”

Since last year’s flooding, the YVC has had to deal with 420 sections of damaged road within the region. Many have been fixed, others have not because they need specialist crews or equipment which hasn’t been available.

“This is why we have to set priorities about the work that can be done,” he said.

“I know everyone thinks their road is the most important one, but we have to look at the bigger picture. Like where the heaviest traffic is, what are the main freight corridors used.

“Not only are the contractors down staff, but we are too – in fact so is everyone, so while we’re trying to recruit workers, so is everyone else.”

For the latest information on the repair schedule, go to the YVC website.

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