Dora Creek Bridge and intersection

21st September 2022

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (21:34): Back in June, businesses in Dora Creek, in my electorate, were finally beginning the long recovery from COVID-related shutdowns. The small shopping strip is a collection of mostly family-run businesses that include a butcher, a newsagent and a general store, among others, but they are always busy due to their proximity to a train station and State Road B53, which connects the bigger population centres of Morisset and Toronto. That road has been the subject of other issues I have raised in the House a number of times previously. Most notably, the narrow road bridge across the creek has been a concern for many years because it sends traffic from a blind bend off the bridge and through a dangerous intersection. Adjacent to that bridge is another which carries the main northern rail line.

While the businesses in Dora Creek have always done a reasonable trade with the local population and passers-by, that changed on 30 June when maintenance work began on the underside of the rail bridge. Temporary traffic signals were installed to manage one-way traffic under the bridge and portable signs were erected in the only parking spaces outside businesses, and dangerous traffic issues were created because the temporary signals resulted in traffic banking up through the dangerous intersection and back onto the main road. It is a serious accident waiting to happen at a location that is already notorious for crashes—but more on that later. What is more alarming is that the business owners were never informed of the impending disruptions—no letter from NSW TrainLink and nothing from Transport for NSW. The scaffolding went up on 30 June, the signs went in, the traffic signals went in, the traffic snarl spilled onto the main road and the shoppers who used to stop there all but disappeared. I should add that this was not for only a few days of inconvenience while the work was done; this was for a 16-week period which now looks as though it will be a six-month period.

The nightmare rolled on for several weeks without any sign of actual work on the bridge beginning. Local shopkeepers, meanwhile, were still relying on any information they could get from contractors working on other sections of the bridge—not from Transport for NSW. Then came the weather events we saw in July. The creek burst its banks, the rail underpass was flooded, streets went under water and financial losses for the town's businesses mounted. Local residents and those businesses now find it is unlikely that the work will be completed by Christmas, six months after it was started, and many of those family-run businesses are moving rapidly towards financial oblivion. I have spoken to the business owners a number of times about their concerns that they will not survive until Christmas if the situation remains the same and there is no form of compensation.

Jackson Buckley owns one of those businesses. Only weeks before the work began, his business hired a new staff member, but he is now faced with cutting staff because the financial impacts from the loss of parking and part-closure of the road have been so great. No-one is disputing the necessity of the works, but it is alarming to think that things can be done this way without any thought given to those who would be significantly impacted by them. As I said previously, the impacts are not limited to local business owners because the works have created dangerous traffic snarls in peak times that spill out onto Wangi Road.

I have been raising the issue of the dangerous intersection of Wangi Road, Dora Street and Wamsley Street at Dora Creek for many years, and was pleased when the 2016-17 State budget saw $300,000 allocated towards finding a solution. Transport for NSW spent that money and vaguely recommended that traffic lights or a realignment of Wangi Road was the likely best solution, but that is where things stopped. I acknowledge that the Minister has been receptive to my calls to address this matter, and also the Treasurer, who has agreed to look at possible financial assistance for these businesses that have been truly blindsided and badly impacted. While not certain, I remain hopeful of a reasonable outcome, but surely these projects can be better managed in future and surely the State agencies involved can do better. We need this issue addressed urgently for the financial security of these businesses, but particularly for the safety of those people who are exposed to the worsened traffic conditions.

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