Gap delays irk drivers
AN irate Warwick coach owner claims he will have to pay an extra $1100 a day to try and maintain bus schedules as a result of Main Roads’ “inflexibility” during maintenance work at Cunningham’s Gap.
The Department of Main Roads (DMR) announced this week they would close the Cunningham Highway through the Gap for four hours a day as part of work to stabilise a cliff face.
The work at the site where a landslip occurred in February is expected to take a month, with the highway closed between 9am and 11am and then 1pm to 3pm during weekdays.
Yesterday Crisps Coaches owner Russell Crisp said he was not opposed to critical work to improve safety.
But he said the lack of community consultation and inflexible road closure schedule would cause “severe disruption” to his business and come at a $1100 daily cost.
“All we asked was for Main Roads to put the road closure back to 2-4pm so our popular afternoon service could run on time and connect with Brisbane services,” Mr Crisp said.
“Our afternoon service leaves Warwick at 1.15pm, so now it will have to be rerouted through Toowoomba.
“This means we won’t get into Brisbane until 4pm; so we’re going to have to put an extra bus and driver in Brisbane at a cost of $1100 per day to maintain our afternoon schedule.
“In effect the lack of flexibility over this hour is going to cost us dearly.”
Mr Crisp said despite repeated appeals, Main Roads refused to alter closure times.
A DMR spokeswoman said the urgent nature of the work had been explained to Mr Crisp along with the reasons for the chosen times.
“These times were chosen in an attempt to minimise disruption for road users and for safety of the specialised abseilers working on the slip face,” she said.
“The 1-3pm timeslot maximises the daylight hours available to the abseilers; as we head toward winter it gets darker earlier, particularly at The Gap.”
The department also said they had made “allowances” to wait for the 9am Crisp bus service to pass through The Gap before closing the road to minimise interruptions to Mr Crisp’s business and the travelling public.
“We were told six days ago about this closure, but people book buses weeks and months in advance,” Mr Crisp said.
“What are we meant to tell our passengers when they miss connecting flights and buses because they arrive in Brisbane an hour later?”
Mr Crisp emphasised he understood the road work was critical, along with other local transport operators.
FRASERS Livestock Transport director Ross Fraser said the closures would seriously impact on business.
“In the short term it will be severely disruptive; we can’t sit and wait for two hours with a load of cattle so we are going to have to go around through Toowoomba,” Mr Fraser said.
“It will be an increased kilometre cost that we will have to bear, along with the increased transport times.”
Mr Fraser said his one serious criticism was that the work was simply a “band-aid” solution to an ongoing problem at The Gap.
Yet the DMR yesterday deflected calls for a more lasting solution to long-term stability problems on the highway.
“The Cunningham Highway is a national highway so funding responsibility falls to the Federal Government,” a spokeswoman said.
“DMR submitted a project proposal report in July 2008 to the Federal Government for $30 million over four years, starting in 2009-10, for a range of improvements to reduce the risk of road closures and improve road-user safety.
“The preferred option includes rigid high energy concrete barriers to intercept falling boulders, removal of potentially unstable rock, shotcreting of loose areas and rock fall protection galleries, similar to avalanche tunnels, at the highest-risk areas.”
But she said the Federal Government had yet to respond to the funding proposal.
MEANWHILE the Department of Community Safety said emergency service vehicles had made contingency plans around the closures.
A department spokesman said routine medical transfers would be scheduled around the closure times. “In emergency situations access will be given to emergency services vehicles,” he said.
Regular road users are encouraged to phone 13 19 40 to check on closure times before travelling through the Gap.