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Shadow Minister for the Central Coast Mr David Harris MP, and Member for Gosford, Ms Kathy Smith MP, criticised the Baird Government for its handling of the repairs to the Hawkesbury River Rail Bridge, in a media statement released on June 6.
The criticism came after The Rail Safety Investigation Report into the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge was released to Parliament in the first week of June. The report found that although deterioration was identified in inspections in May 2013, effectively the required work did not begin until April 2016, despite the recommendation that rectification works be carried out within twelve months. The Report found that: “Although the structural integrity of the bridge Pier 2 was deteriorating, the bridge remained above a safe operating threshold.” This was confirmed by a load rating assessment which revealed the bridge was capable of sustaining loads above that of normal passenger and freight services.
It was residual RailCorp engineering processes that had proved effective in detecting the change in condition of the pier between the 2006 and May 2013 inspections. It was also their residual tender processes that had reacted quickly and commenced a procurement process with a pre-existing contract panel. However, from July 1, 2013, responsibility for effecting the necessary repairs to the pier rested with Sydney Trains. Significantly, the repair strategy and specification of documentation contained non-validated information pertaining to the water depth. Despite being critical to the design and construction of the cofferdam, there was a significant variety of interpretations of the water depth among the SMEs, tenderers and Sydney Trains.
This latent condition remained until July 24, 2015, when a preferred tenderer was selected and shortly after undertook detailed due diligence at the site, finding a significant increase in water depth and put forward a revised scope of works and costs. This was rejected by Sydney Trains and the tender cancelled in August 2015. Sydney Trains initiated a new tender process with corrected water depth information confirmed by hydrographic surveys. The new procurement process commenced in September 2015 and a contract signed with the preferred tenderer on December 4, 2015. The necessary concrete pour at the pier was carried out on April 24, 2016. “The Baird Government is so busy privatising government services and restructuring departments it has created a situation where the expertise is being lost, resulting in poor tenders for important safety works,” Mr Harris said.
“If Labor hadn’t accessed this information under Freedom of Information, the NSW Liberal Government may have sat on its hands. “The secretive culture that has been created by the Baird Government in NSW has resulted in the suppression of information to the community across so many areas, which should cause real concern to the public,” he added. Ms Smith said she feared the public would never have been made aware of the situation had the whistle not been blown. “Commuters from my electorate, indeed all commuters that use this line, should be confident that the tender process for repairs is robust. “Safety is paramount,” she said. “The Minister attempted to avoid any questions on this matter and now we know why, with the tender process being shown to be a shambles with incorrect water depths being supplied to contractors. “I am pleased that the bridge is safe and repair works have now been completed, but the Baird Government should be more open about such issues, especially when it comes to safety,” Ms Smith concluded.
This article first appeared on coastcommunitynews.com.au
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