PRIVATE MEMBERS STATEMENT - Maitland Railway Station Roundabout
Mr Temporary Speaker Singh, I congratulate you on your election and your appointment to this role.
Tonight I commence my contribution to the new parliamentary term by raising Maitland's number one transport issue: the ongoing peak-hour traffic congestion centred on the Maitland Railway Station roundabout.
Every person attending our pre-poll and every person who engaged with us in a roads survey before Christmas mentioned the congestion. It represents a mistake by this Government, which has cut our city literally in two.
Today I requested a meeting with the Minister for Transport and Roads in relation to roads in my electorate, and he has agreed verbally to meet with me. I put these comments on the record today as a starting point in that conversation and to lay out what happened before he took on this portfolio.
There is much more to say and I note that I applied for information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act process just before the election. This application was delayed by the Government. It is interesting to consider the impact of this delay on the election.
It is just more than two years ago since I called in this place for the Liberals and Nationals to attempt to address this problem. I showed then that the Government's first attempt had been an unmitigated disaster.
There have been many discussions on this topic since then, with the Government, Roads and Maritime Services [RMS], councillors and others. The wasteful, half-hearted solution of a $50 million one-way overpass to take some of the New England Highway's traffic out of the roundabout has only created daily frustration for thousands of motorists travelling to and from work each day.
I wrote to the former Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight in March 2017 asking her to visit at the earliest opportunity to see what was happening. It was an inspection that never happened. Frustrated by the lack of answers and the inaction of this Government, I recently used the Government Information (Public Access) Act process to try to get some clarity about what was being done to address this frustrating congestion.
What I have read has only confirmed my earlier concern that the one-way overpass was always a bandaid solution. Reports from RMS indicate that the upgrade failed within six months of opening to traffic. So much for the wait-and-see approach!
Despite RMS' traffic modelling, more vehicles were coming out of the Maitland CBD during the evening peak than forecast, which has impacted the efficient operation of the roundabout. The flow-on effect has been a bank-up of westbound traffic that has stretched nearly one kilometre—900 metres—along the New England Highway.
To avoid joining the gridlock scores of motorists leave the highway daily to use nearby Maitland Park as a rat run, despite a childcare centre, sporting facilities, the local swimming pool and war memorials being located within the park precinct.
Now after two years of investigation the Government is finally preparing to start work on its first fix. During the election campaign it announced a $1.5 million commitment—which was already budgeted so it was not a "commitment"—to include some traffic lights for eastbound vehicles approaching the roundabout and traffic queue detectors for westbound vehicles with the aim of creating more gaps so that traffic can flow.
The Government did not say that this also has an unannounced second component, which could include the upgrade of the New England Highway-Louth Park Road intersection with traffic lights. This is also being considered and will cost $5 million.
The Roads and Maritime Services documents cannot show the cost that that will shift onto our local community—to residents who live in Louth Park, who will then have to change the way they access their homes. There will be also costs to our council.
This term I am expecting much more from the Government because on the eve of polling day in March, well after money had been spent by this Government, the Liberals' Maitland candidate toldTheMaitland Mercury that she had used her candidacy to pressure the New South Wales Government for a solution. Her solution—the answer that the majority of respondents to my road safety survey in January gave me—was to build a westbound overpass over the roundabout.
Tonight I renew my invitation to the Government. This time I ask the Minister for Transport and Roads to come to Maitland, see the problem and focus on a proper and adequate traffic solution. Maitland is the fastest‑growing city outside Sydney, with a growth rate of 25 per cent since the 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census and now home to 80,000 residents.
The warning about the infrastructure needs, especially roads, was made in 2008. At the time then Mayor Peter Blackmore told us: "…our traffic is pretty bad. But when you look at our projected growth figures, it's going to be a lot worse."
Those words were prophetic indeed. Minister, come to Maitland, see the roundabout and please fix it.