Otford residents are calling for urgent action to improve the safety and amenity of Otford Bridge, which they believe is an accident waiting to happen.
After three years of ‘upgrade’, the bridge over the railway line is still is only one lane wide, too narrow for railway busses, and there is no line of sight, which means cars are regularly forced to reverse back across the bridge to allow other cars to pass.
To top it off, a newly erected sign at one end of the bridge contained a spelling error!
The ‘Fix Otford Bridge Committee’ says Otford is a small community and it’s being taken advantage of.
The committee is calling for urgent action, including the construction of a cantilevered pedestrian walkway off the southern side so all the current available space can be opened to two lanes of traffic.
Locals say the upgrade shows no foresight and there was no community consultation.
“The bridge provides vital access in times of emergency,” says Fix Otford Bridge Committee spokesperson Karen Lane. “It is used for traffic diversions when Lawrence Hargrave Drive is closed and is a vital exit point in one of the highest bushfire-prone areas of the state.
“On a daily basis, vehicles meet in the middle of the bridge, with one vehicle having to reverse to allow the other to pass.
“This manoeuvre is inconvenient AND dangerous, especially in Otford, which is at high risk of bushfires due to the proximity to the Royal National Park.
“We are not being taken seriously,” she says, “By Wollongong Council or by Sydney Trains. Neither will take responsibility for the bridge and its poor excuse for an upgrade.”
“The upgrade commenced with one Sydney Trains’ Project Manager in May 2014 and remains incomplete, with a third Project Manager currently at the helm,” she says.
“We now have a bridge which is less usable than before!”
And here’s why…
* There is now an S-bend approach on the eastern side of the bridge. This was not shown in the drawings nor in the photo montage provided to the Otford community by Sydney Trains and WCC.
* The drainage problem on the bridge has not been rectified. The new drain has been positioned 100 mm ABOVE the lowest point of the bridge.
* Last fortnight, new signage erected on the bridge indicated that vehicles no longer than 12.5m can use the bridge. Prior to the UPGRADE, the signage indicated that vehicles UP TO 13m could use the bridge. This is a reduction of 0.5m and not an upgrade. One of the purposes of this upgrade was to allow longer vehicles to use the bridge.
* AND THE FINAL STRAW, the new 12.5m signage mentioned above, was erected with the word ‘length’ spelt incorrectly – it showed the word ‘LENGHT’, causing comments such as this on the local Facebook page. “Aligns perfectly with everything associated with this bridge & the embarrassing attempt @ an upgrade! The original bridge looked far better & was far more practical in terms of being able to see oncoming traffic. Congratulations to the useless government agencies responsible for this debacle! You would struggle to “Deliberately MUCK” things up as much as they have!”
“If the Otford community had been consulted before the 2014 upgrade, and if a two-lane bridge was constructed with a separate pedestrian overpass cantilevered off the southern side of the bridge, then less money could have been spent and the current problems would not have occurred,” says Karen. “The bridge upgrade should be deemed a failure.”
Wollongong Council has washed its hands of the project, with a spokesman saying Sydney Trains is responsible for the works.
“Council has worked with Sydney Trains to ensure the bridge meets engineering standards and the road alignment,stop/hold lines and sight lines along the bridge comply with Council requirements.
“All further enquiries should be addressed to Sydney Trains https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sydneytrains”