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Hundreds of giant concrete pieces built for the West Gate Tunnel will be trucked at a snail’s pace through regional back roads because of a flaw in the government’s rail plan for the project.
Residents in Longwood and Locksley, near Euroa, are up in arms after being told massive loads weighing up to 160 tonnes will be sent through their communities five times a week throughout two years.
The heaviest trucks, including some classed as “super loads”, will travel at 25km/h.
The bridge segments, precast in Benalla, will now take a detour around Pranjip Bridge on Hume Freeway because the historic crossing is not strong enough to handle their weight.
Locals are frustrated because the decision to use their roads was made with short notice and came after authorities previously indicated much of the concrete would go by rail.
In 2018, the Andrews government touted the construction of 600m of railway that would help move critical precast concrete directly to Melbourne without adding to congestion.
At the time, the government said “600m of new rail track will also be built — connected to the nearby freight line — so the concrete segments can be loaded directly from the precast facility on to freight trains and transported to Melbourne”.
But it is understood pieces of the bridges are too big for the railway tracks and authorities have had to scramble to find a solution.
About 5000 pieces of concrete are expected to travel by rail so far, with 65,000 concrete products to be supplied for the entire project.
It is understood the builders on the West Gate Tunnel and LS Precast, who manufacture the pieces, chose the route.
Strathbogie Shire mayor Amanda McClaren said the council was “extremely disappointed” by the short notice and could not afford the maintenance to fix roads affected by the massive trucks.
“We are yet to provide consent to the use of our road network because our community has not been adequately engaged,” she said.
“The only reason the Longwood and Locksley communities are aware of this project is because our council quickly arranged a community meeting with Regional Roads Victoria.”
Under the plan, trucks will turn off Hume Highway at the southbound Longwood exit and go along the Longwood-Avenel Road before rejoining the freeway at Alexanderson's Road, Locksley.
Longwood local Gerard Hamill said he was concerned the trucks would keep his family awake and destroy the roads around his property.
LS Precast factory making parts of the Westgate tunnel. Picture: Jason EdwardsResidents have been told to expect trucks that are 52m long, 5m high and 4.5m wide.
Longwood Action Group president Steve Tobin said the journeys were scheduled to start by the end of August. “At first it was two loads a week for two years at night starting from next week, now it’s up to five loads a week,” he said.
Opposition transport spokesman David Davis said the concrete parts would now take the “scenic route” to Melbourne. “Andrews and Labor crowed about the building of a (rail) siding next to the production site in Benalla but clearly hadn’t done their homework or due diligence to ensure the rail transport option would work,” he said.
A government spokesman said: “The West Gate Tunnel Project is working with CPB-John Holland, the Department of Transport and the Strathbogie Shire to finalise the safest and most appropriate routes to transport these concrete segments from Benalla to the West Gate Tunnel project site.”
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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