SAFETY concerns about the McClennan Street viaduct have forced Armidale Regional Council to seek its removal.
The viaduct poses a hazard to the community and needs to go, councillor Jon Galletly said.
“I don’t think it’s going to take a lot of time or money to plonk it next door,” he said.
“We’ve got a duty of care as councillors to remove this until such time as it’s needed – then we won’t be incurring any injuries or fatalities out of that area which is a black spot at the present.”
A petition to removal the viaduct garnered almost 400 signatures.
But, the issue has split council into two distinct camps, those who see the rail bridge as a safety issue and those who’ve labelled it an excuse to slash the Great Northern Rail Line.
The permanent closure of the rail line for a rail trail has been the subject of fierce debate in the community.
Council will make representations to Transport for NSW and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall to have the rail bridge removed.
The viaduct is managed by John Holland Rail on behalf of Transport for NSW, and councillor Debra O’Brian said the removal is short-sighted and would require an Act of Parliament.
“There’s no way we have community consent for this,” she said.
“The ramifications for this are possibly the closing down of the Great Northern Rail Line and more than 4000 people have signed a petition to make sure we safeguard and protect this line.
“I have mixed feelings about asking you not to go to the state member, because if you do go to the state member on this you could make the rail an election issue – nothing would make me happier than to make the rail an election issue.”
Cr O’Brien is Labor’s state election candidate for the New England and Northern Tablelands, but not everyone was happy with her representations.
Mayor Simon Murray supports the removal of the viaduct and said the damage to the infrastructure is significant.
“”If the government decides to reinstate the line the chances are it would have to be taken out and inspected anyway, so it’s not stopping the future of the rail at all – that’s why I can’t understand why members of the community are upset about it,” he said.
“I think her [Cr O’Brien’s] comments border on her campaigning on behalf of the Labor Party which I find not conducive, this is a local government issue.”
Police records confirm trucks getting stuck under the viaduct as far back as 2003.
The NSW Transport Administration Act does not allow Transport for NSW to close a railway line without an Act of Parliament, but, Transport for NSW can remove discrete pieces of infrastructure where safety is concerned.
A John Holland spokesman said removal of rail underbridges can only occur where the line has been closed by an act of parliament, or its removal is necessary to prevent an imminent safety risk.
“Currently the condition of this bridge does not fall into this criteria,” the spokesman said.
”We encourage motorists to be aware of the height of their vehicle and to use an alternate route if necessary.”
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