Deputy mayor Cr Chris Holstein is planning to have Central Coast Council support the resumption of work to replace the Rawson Rd level crossing.
Cr Holstein said he had submitted a notice of motion about the replacement of the level crossing which he expected would be debated at a February council meeting.
Cr Holstein said he would be calling on council to make representations to the NSW Premier, relevant Ministers and to Mr Scot MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast.
“The works are imperative,” Cr Holstein said.
“I believe the rationale and reasons for discontinuing it were not substantiated enough and were not valid,” he said.
The former Gosford Council, according to Cr Holstein, “went and did a gold ribbon solution on the pedestrian underpass, the road underpass works commenced and then the Government came back and said it was cost-prohibitive.
“I have an understanding of why the project was canned or put to the side and it was around dollars, but the option they were considering was farcical and not justifiable and about removing the project from the agenda,” Cr Holstein said.
“Their reason for pulling out of it was that it was going to be too cost-prohibitive but it wasn’t cost-prohibitive until they came up with the railway’s solution.
“I think that was an excuse: They found the most costly solution and that sent the project away.
“At no stage beforehand had cost been an issue.
“Railways said what their requirements to construct the underpass would be and they were unrealistic conditions because railways said they would not be prepared to see any closures of the railway line.
“They actually wanted to put bypass rails on either side of the underpass so the line could continue to operate while the underpass was constructed and that would be a physical impossibility.”
Cr Holstein said he did not believe money already spent on roadworks at Bulls Hill was wasted.
“There is still a definite need to have safer access, a formal secondary access to the Peninsula.
“We have seen it with what happened the other morning when we had a burst water main on Brisbane Water Dve.
“We have seen that with bushfires. We have seen that with road accidents.”
Cr Holstein said his motion would include council writing to the leader of the NSW Opposition seeking his support if Labor won government in March 2019.
“The reality is we have had incidents at that crossing.
“It is not safe.
“We need a more effective and faster rail service and you are not going to get that if you still have level crossings.
“Movement of traffic on the Peninsula from north to south is a further consideration.
“The benefits of a Rawson Rd underpass go beyond the electorate of Gosford.
“It would greatly benefit the people who come from the Terrigal electorate via Maitland Bay Dve to use the M1,” Cr Holstein said.
Member for Gosford, Ms Liesl Tesch, has vowed to continue to fight for the Rawson Road Level Crossing Replacement Project, a NSW Government project, which was due for completion in 2018.
Ms Tesch said the current NSW Government would be bringing down its final budget before the March 2019 election in June.
She said she would be reminding the Government in the months prior to the budget that the Peninsula community “still wants a solution to the replacement of the dangerous Rawson Rd level crossing”.
“Labor has agreed that, if elected in March 2019, we will replace the level crossing and I am now talking to engineers about alternative proposals that will cost less than the $110 million that was this Government’s last estimate,” Ms Tesch said.
According to documents obtained by the Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, Mr David Harris, using the state’s Government Information Public Access law, by October 20, 2016, the NSW Government had paid Gosford and Central Coast Council $15.2 million.
Of that, $4.1 million had been spent on project management and consultancy fees, $5.8 million on the pedestrian underpass and adjacent road and footpath work and $5.3 million on preparatory works and road construction at the base of Bull’s Hill.
Funds were allocated up until June 2016 but the NSW Government appeared to get cold feet about the project much earlier even though they kept paying Council’s bills for work completed.
Payment claims had been submitted monthly by the Council and paid regularly by the NSW Government.
In February 2014, internal correspondence between officers of Gosford Council indicated a program for the replacement of the level crossing.
Construction of the rail underpass was to commence in December 2014 and was estimated to take 18 months with completion slated for mid-2016.
The former Council believed the level crossing would be closed in July 2017.
Its breakdown of stages and budgets estimated the total project would cost $92 million but those plans never came to fruition.
Although a great deal of the information in the GiPA documents has been blacked out, cost blow-outs and a communication breakdown between Council and NSW Transport appeared to start in 2014.
In October 2014, NSW Roads and Maritime Services disputed Council’s $92 million estimate and claimed the total cost of the project would be $130 million.
A project control group was appointed in late 2014 and it was at that time that Council received a directive stating that, “effective immediately”, all rail bridges within the rail corridor would be managed by Transport for NSW and that all road bridges over rail infrastructure would be managed by Roads and Maritime Services.
As a result control of the project was moved from Gosford Council to Transport for NSW.
Road works adjoining the proposed rail bridge at Bulls Hill were well under construction by February 2015, according to correspondence between Council and Transport for NSW.
Project timelines continued to blow out due to Transport for NSW requiring reviews of all plans and decisions.
“Nearly four months has passed and I am now being advised that the plans will have to be reviewed by TPD,” said one email from Mr Scott Burton, a Gosford Council project engineer.
“Historically, reviews undertaken by TPD take a considerable period of time.
“Combined with the fact that road works on site will now need to stop due to this delay, this places this project in a very difficult position of delivery within the State Government’s expected timeframe.”
In March 2015, according to the documents, a Brisbane based consultant produced an options estimate report for Transport for NSW on the project that incorporated the Woy Woy rail underbridge, Shoalhaven Dve underbridge upgrade and removal of Rawson Rd level crossing.
Six alternate designs were considered but the estimated cost information and risk analysis was completely deleted from the GiPA documents and remains confidential.
Gosford Council representatives were not included in meetings held by the consultant to discuss the various options, according to the documents with NSW Government representatives.
A final business case assurance review report was then prepared by Transport for NSW in June 2015 but its contents was completed redacted from the GiPA document.
Interview, 23 Jan 2018
Liesl Tesch, Member for Gosford
Interview, 24 Jan 2018
Chris Holstein, Central Coast Council
GiPA emails and reports, 2014-2016
Clarinda Campbell, NSW Roads and Maritime
Reporter: Jackie Pearson