A REPORT commissioned by Gunnedah Shire Council to push their case for a second rail overpass in the Gunnedah township has conclusively confirmed one is needed.
Gunnedah Shire Council commissioned the report about eight months ago, before it became aware of a NSW government allocation of $600,000 in the budget for planning and ensign of a new overpass.
The report, under taken by GHD, shows that if nothing is done to address the issue of another rail overpass by 2020, the town will face a complete gridlock.
It said there will not be sufficient time between trains for traffic to clear the level crossings before the next train arrives and went on to recommend treatments to intersections leading into the current overpass and level crossings and traffic lights at the intersection of Oxley and Kamilaroi Highways.
Gunnedah Shire mayor Adam Marshall said in essence the report confirmed what the town’s residents had known for some time.
“(The report) provides the research and data to show the need for the overpass and the catastrophic problems that will eventuate, should nothing be done,” he said.
Cr Marshall said despite the allocation of funds by the state government, the report was still important.
“It will feed into the next 12 month process, which will involve Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) working closely with council and the community on a location and design, which is supported by the community, or the second rail overpass,” he said.
Cr Marshall said there were two major issues the council was hoping to solve with the one solution of another overpass.
“The first is the community issue of increasing rail traffic cutting Gunnedah in half and the safety, congestion and emergency services concerns,” he said.
The second is the Heavy Mass Limit (HML) issue from RMS.
“The current overhead bridge, built in 1941, does not meet the current standards for HML access, therefore making Gunnedah a pin-point for HML vehicles,” Cr Marshall said.
“This is a big problem for RMS in terms of moving freight efficiently on the state-road network.”
In May the council launched a petition urging the community to get behind the construction of a second rail overpass in Gunnedah.
The petition was strongly supported by police, NSW Fire and Rescue, SES and the NSW Ambulance Service, all of whom often face delays at the existing overpass and feared, as the report suggested, something horrific would happen in the future should nothing be done to prevent trains from cutting the town in two.
Traffic modelling undertaken by council suggested the lengthy traffic delays experienced by the town already would become more frequent over the coming five years.
They suggested trains up to 1.35km in length, from the mining and grain industries, could come through the town every 17 to 19 minutes and that it could take up to 14 minutes for the trains, many of which transport coal to Newcastle, to pass the last of the level crossings.