Rod Hannifey’s phone has been ringing hot since Transport for NSW (TfNSW) announced it was building a $7 million Heavy Vehicle Safety Station (HVSS) near Dubbo on the Golden Highway.
Much like they were on the Big Rigs Facebook page when the news broke, truckies were demanding to know why this is even necessary, and if so, why a weighbridge is costing so much.
“All I heard was blokes saying, ‘What the hell are they building, a 27-story mega-plaza or something?’,” said a frustrated Hannifey, who has also been blindsided by the big spend.
“Second thing is, have they spoke to anyone in the industry about it?”
Adding to Hannifey’s exasperation is the fact there is already a set of pads just out of Dubbo on the eastbound side of the highway.
“Why wouldn’t you expand that site? If they’re not going to do that and put it on the other side of the road, what traffic is it designed to capture.
“If you’ve come out of Sydney, you’ve already come over a weighbridge anyway, and the blokes who are going to be working there are going to have to drive an hour each day just to get to and from the site.”
“I can’t understand why they’re putting it where they’re putting it, and I’d like to see how they can justify that amount of money.”
Once again, says Hannifey, it seems as if enforcement is taking priority over fixing the roads and giving drivers more options to rest.
He’s already seen several of his green reflector bays torn up to make way for passing lanes on the Newell Highway, and when he’s asked TfNSW the reason why they’re not replaced, he said he was told there wasn’t budget allocated.
“They can find the money to punish you, but not to help you,” said Hannifey, a full-time driver for the Dubbo-based Rod Pilon Transport and president of the National Road Freighters Association.
Hannifey said you only have to look at how many of his green reflector bays are on the Golden Highway in comparison to TfNSW-built rest areas to see where the priorities lie.
“They did build four on the Golden Highway but two of them are close together and there is no shade, nothing but a set of tables and a bin. None of them have toilets.
“Again, when they built those, there was no consultation involved, and nothing has been done since, yet all of a sudden they have $7 million to build a weighbridge.”
In a statement, TfNSW said the new heavy vehicle inspection station, located about seven kilometres east of Ballimore, between Dubbo and Dunedoo, will “facilitate compliance monitoring and enforcement of heavy vehicles on the Golden Highway, reducing heavy vehicle overloading, fatigue-related heavy vehicle crashes and the risk of non-compliant vehicles travelling to Dubbo.”
A TfNSW spokesperson told Big Rigs the weighbridge is a result of “community consultation” in October 2016. Work started in May and is on track to be finished by late August.
A breakdown of the construction budget includes the cost of earthworks and pavement ($2.5 million), facilities costs including the weighbridge, communications, electrical installation and amenities ($3.5 million), and weigh in motion (WIM) sensor technology and associated roadworks ($1 million), the spokesperson added.
“The NSW freight task is expected to grow by 34 per cent by 2061 and as the demand for freight grows, so too will the number of freight vehicles and their needs,” the spokesperson said.
“The site will be equipped with Intelligent Transport systems which will assist with managing speed around the site when in operation and directing drivers into the site as required.”
As part of its regular maintenance program, TfNSW said it also maintains and services three rest areas between Dunedoo and Dubbo.
“Transport also is committed to considering opportunities for new and improved heavy vehicle rest stops when planning upgrades to our road network. In particular around Dubbo, there have been a number of new rest stopping facilities delivered on the Golden Highway over the last five years.
“Further, a NSW Government program is under way to improve heavy vehicle rest stops throughout NSW by developing strategies to ensure gaps across the network are identified and addressed and facilities meet the needs of drivers.”
NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison told Big Rigs that she shares truckies’ frustrations.
“Having operated a heavy vehicle tour operation for nearly 20 years before parliament and having watched the condition of our roads deteriorate under the former government, I share the frustration of heavy vehicle operators across the state,” Aitchison said.
“That is why Labor promised to fund $390 million through our Emergency Road Repair Fund, which more than doubled the former government’s pothole fund for the regions.
“In addition, Labor promised and additional $12 million towards specifically improving the Golden Highway, particularly around Merriwa where there is no overtaking lanes around the town. This was part of our $334 million package for capital roads projects which has not been fully allocated.”
“We have also just announced the imminent opening of a new flyover bridge from the Golden Highway onto New England Highway at Belford.”