Russell Crisp, of Crisps Coaches, says it would have been helpful to have had reasonable warning about Thursday’s rock demolition.
Russell Crisp, of Crisps Coaches, says it would have been helpful to have had reasonable warning about Thursday’s rock demolition. Emma Channon

Anger over Gap closure

DESPITE little warning for motorists, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) has defended its removal of a 20-tonne boulder from Cunningham’s Gap.

The department said the removal was a planned operation, which included closing the road and clearing the site before carrying out a controlled rock fall.

Motorists were sent text messages two hours after the removal took place.

And LED signs at the Eight Mile, put in place to advise motorists of changes to conditions at the Gap, provided no information about road closures or longer-than-usual delays.

A DTMR spokesman stood by the communication technique, saying the signs still indicated to motorists there would be delays.

“Had we changed (the signs) to indicate the road was closed, motorists using any alternative route would have experienced significantly longer trips than they did,” he said.

“We understand that motorists are frustrated by even a 15 to 20-minute closure.

“But it was necessary to get this vital work done safely.”

The damage to the shipping containers was part of the process in bringing down the rock, the spokesman added.

“We were well aware of the size of the rock because our geologists had planned the work according to its dimensions,” he said.

“We have always been up front about the shipping containers being in place to act as a barrier and to collect rock fall.

“(On Thursday), the containers performed the role they were placed there for well.

“New containers to replace the two damaged ones will be in place (today).”

The rock was pulled down from a site about two kilometres from the top of the range and fell about 50m.

One of the vehicles snagged in the traffic backlog was a Crisps Coach returning from Brisbane.

The driver and passengers were forced to wait more than half an hour.

Mr Crisp said the disruption was frustrating, especially when he was given no warning.

“I got a text through on my phone saying the Gap was closed for a short time, after it had been closed and when it was too late,” he said.

“It was totally useless – the driver got to The Gap and had to ring us to find out why he was stopped.

“And just as he finished talking the text came through from Main Roads.”

Two months ago the transport operator was receiving regular updates and emails about the progress for Cunningham’s Gap.

Now, he said, he hadn’t heard a whisper, aside from “a text every now and again” saying there were delays.

Mr Crisp acknowledged ongoing road works and delays were out of the department’s control but said more warning would have been helpful before major works such as Thursday’s excavation.

“We’d like to know in the mornings if there is going to be a significant hold-up,” he said.

“I don’t know whether they’d know if there was going to be any significant hold-ups.

“It may have been a bit more than they anticipated. You wouldn’t know.

“They’re doing their job. But if it’s going to be something they’re not sure about it would be better to do it at a time of day where there’s not so much traffic going up and down.”

Motorist delays have plagued the Gap since work began at the end of last year.

Mr Crisp said not only did delays hold up other connections they compounded costs.

But, he said, business was still trucking on.

“It makes all our runs late – our system has slowed down because we’re always running late, but at least we’re pulling through,” he said.

“We don’t like the idea of sitting for 20 minutes with the motor running.

“It does cost us extra but we can’t turn it off because otherwise the passengers would cook.”

The estimated figure to repair works at Cunningham’s Gap stands at the original $40 million.

The Main Roads spokesman said the latest removal of the boulder had not caused damage to the road it landed on and that it was the first of a number of rock falls that would be required on the range.

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