News

Roadworks gum up system

By Ivy Jensen

THE congestion caused by the Ogilvie Ave roadworks is causing delays of up to 20 minutes for school buses.

O’Brien Bus Lines owner Kevin O’Brien said since Warren St was blocked completely about six weeks ago, he could be stuck at the Ogilvie Ave-High St traffic lights for five to six changes between 3.25pm and 3.45pm every day.

‘‘The lights stay green for about a minute which would take one B-double truck to get through, so it can put us up to 20 minutes behind,’’ he said.

‘‘The whole bus fleet has to get to Echuca College for the interchange and you may have 11 buses waiting fully loaded for the last four buses to come from St Joseph’s and 208.

‘‘The whole bus fleet is being held up for about 20 minutes.’’

Mr O’Brien said the delays were causing a ripple effect, impacting bus drivers, students and parents.

‘‘I have to meet the connecting buses in Gunbower to deliver the kids to Leitchville, Cohuna, Gannawarra, Barham and Koondrook so the time effects are drastic,’’ he said.

‘‘If we’re 10 minutes late, all parents have to be notified, so legally we have to pull up and ring the bus co-ordinator who then contacts the 700 families, which doesn’t happen, so you’ve got worried parents waiting on the side of roads not knowing if anything has happened.’’

Mr O’Brien said his point of call was Campaspe Shire who politely told him ‘‘it’s not our concern’’.

‘‘I told them as far as I’m concerned, it is your concern because there are thousands of cars using Hare St into Haverfield St and banking up every residential road which our ratepayers pay for,’’ he said.

‘‘They understood my problem and frustrations and told me they had been caught up in traffic but it was not their problem.’’

Mr O’Brien said he contacted VicRoads on November 19 to lodge a complaint.

‘‘I asked them to look at altering the lights as that would ease the burden and I believe that would fix the problem,’’ he said.

‘‘They told me they would log my complaint and I waited for a response.’’

With no response by last Friday, November 30, Mr O’Brien contacted VicRoads to ask how his complaint was getting on.

‘‘It took 35 minutes to find my complaint and they had lost my name and phone number. They told me someone would be looking at it. I requested an urgent look because I wished to take the matter further as Echuca is a very busy place and it is affecting the whole community.

‘‘It’s taking Rochester and Bendigo residents 20 minutes longer to get home.

‘‘People are just sick of waiting. I have never seen so much road rage in my 17 years as a bus driver here as I’m seeing now.

‘‘People are cutting in, beeping their horns, putting the finger up and going through stop lights.’’

Mr O’Brien said VicRoads had phoned him yesterday and told him there had been a slight adjustment to the lights but he hadn’t noticed a difference.

He is considering taking his complaint to Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh.

Rural Roads Victoria northern operations manager Matt Gard said he understood delays were frustrating, but the changed traffic conditions and reduced speeds were in place to ensure the safety of drivers, cyclists and road workers.

‘‘We always try to minimise disruption and keep our community informed, we’re working as quickly as possible to complete these works and thank the Echuca community for their patience,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re making roads in Echuca safer by building a new school crossing on the Northern Highway and rebuilding a 1.7km section of Ogilvie Ave.’’