26 March 2021

Railway bridge closure impedes flow of vital produce to market

| Edwina Mason
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Railway bridge at Wallendbeen

Damage to the railway bridge at Wallendbeen has seen the closure of the Burley Griffin Way, a vital conduit for carriers transporting produce from the state’s fruit bowl to city markets. Photo: Supplied.

If you were thinking of skipping over to Griffith or further west for Easter, it may pay to add half an hour to your travel plans now that Burley Griffin Way, between the Olympic Highway at Wallendbeen and Milvale Road at Temora, has been closed to all traffic.

This is what heavy transport companies are doing to ensure produce from the vital fruit bowl of NSW are on schedule ahead of, arguably, the second busiest eating season of the year.

Trucks are now diverting to Wagga Wagga, which is costing them half an hour of travel time.

Burley Griffin Way provides a link between the agricultural produce of the western Riverina and Murrumbidgee regions and markets such as Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle. It also leads tourists on what is termed as a “backtrack to the outback”, connecting to the Newell Highway and beyond to South Australia and North West Victoria.

It was closed Wednesday after damage was discovered on the railway bridge and road surface at Wallendbeen.

Louie Pittari of L & M Transport at Hanwood knows the spot well. His company has used the same route for 30 years.

Trucking company Pittari

“There’s nothing we can do about it, but it’s not just factoring in the earlier departure of trucks,” says trucking company boss Louie Pittari. Photo: Supplied.

“Yeah, I know what the problem is. The road sinks at the end of the bridge, and all that’s ever done is a bit of tar is thrown in the rough spot,” he said.

He runs six to seven B-doubles from Hanwood to Sydney and Newcastle daily and the issue now is one of inconvenience, especially before Easter.

“I mean, what are we going to do?” he asked.

“There’s nothing we can do about it, but it’s not just factoring in the earlier departure of trucks. Most of my drivers are from Temora and now they also have to detour to get home,” he said.

Road and bridge engineers are inspecting the site with more detailed assessments on the railway bridge, which is maintained by John Holland Rail, also planned.

Transport for NSW is working with John Holland and Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council Council to minimise local traffic impact until repairs are complete.

At this stage, they anticipate the road will be closed for several weeks with more detailed information to be shared with the community as soon as possible.

Mr Pittari said he hopes that the interruption will be minimal, but any repairs to the bridge should be done properly.

“And it would be nice if John Holland would contact carriers to let us know what is happening because we’re in the dark about it. All we’re hearing is what is being reported on the media,” he added.

John Holland has been contacted for comment.

While the road is closed, motorists are asked to detour via the Olympic Highway and Goldfields Way, which may add 40 minutes’ travel time to journeys.

Motorists are advised to drive to the conditions, plan ahead, and follow signs and traffic control directions.

As the Olympic Highway through Wallendbeen is a Performance Based Standards (PBS route), PBS vehicles should use alternative approved routes suitable for their combination.

Freight operators seeking further information about permits or alternative routes should contact Heavy Vehicle Access Coordinator Craig Gibbins on 0428 410 626.

Road freight operators can also refer to Transport for NSW’s Restricted Access Vehicle online mapping site at NSW Roads.

For the latest traffic updates, download the Live Traffic NSW App and visit livetraffic.com or call 132 701.

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Jeffrey Passlow10:19 am 15 Jun 21

The road surface between Cootamundra and Stockinbingal is breaking up because of the additional heavy transport using it. It was not great at the best of times and it was not built to carry the extra loads.

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