Impossible financial gap still not bridged

“WILL the organisation responsible for allowing a bridge to be half built without notifying the council of a multi-million dollar commitment please put up their hand.”

This is the call from Nambucca Shire Council general manager, Michael Coulter, who finds himself stuck between a metaphoric track and its bureaucratic sleepers when it comes to the Upper Warrell Creek Railway Overbridge.

Work on the project has stopped following a directive from the Australian Rail Track Corporation, who say at 5.8 metres, the bridge's vertical clearance is 1.3 metres below the 7.1-metre Australian standard and requires a special submission for construction.

A spokesman for the ARTC said the corporation was only notified in early October of the proposed design.

“Upon receipt and review of the plans the installer was notified of the clearance issue and the requirement of a business submission,” the spokesman said.

Construction of the new bridge approaches was about to commence at this point, the council believing it had jumped through every bureaucratic hoop over the previous 12 months.

Only then was the council informed that the special requirement included accepting unlimited liability for any future cost of raising the bridge. The council refused and the ARTC slapped a stop-work directive on the site.

“This is totally unreasonable,” Mr Coulter said.

“The way we see it, we have done the State Government a major financial favour (by finding funding for the new bridge) and now we are being penalised for helping out.”

Mr Coulter said the council had been told by the minister early last year the NSW Rail Infrastructure Corporation was responsible for the replacement of the overbridge.

“When we contacted RIC, they directed us to Transfield Services, who advised us they would provide all the necessary assistance in relation to design and rail corridor access approvals. Transfield advised us in January 2008 that ARTC had been provided with a concept design.”

Mr Coulter admits to feeling absolutely stumped.

“How can a small council carry the can for changes in national rail infrastructure criteria?”

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