No movement yet on Longwood superload detours

By James Bennett

A stalemate is brewing in Longwood and Locksley between furious residents, Strathbogie Shire Council and the West Gate Tunnel project.

The council has not approved super-loads destined for Melbourne detouring off Hume Hwy to drive through the small towns, citing disruption to residents and "lack of engagement" with the community as reasons why the plan should not proceed.

The super-loads are too heavy to drive over the historic Pranjip Creek Bridge on the Hume Hwy southbound lane, which has created the need for a detour.

The super-loads will transport parts weighing up to 250 tonnes from Benalla, to be used in the construction of the West Gate Tunnel project.

Strathbogie Shire Mayor Amanda McClaren said the council was about to implement load limits that would prevent the super-loads from passing through the small towns.

“We expect signage enforcing these limits to be erected within the next week,” she said.

“These load limits will continue until a memorandum of understanding can be signed off and community consultation has occurred.”

Cr McClaren said the council was in discussion with the Department of Transport and the West Gate Tunnel project to come up with an MOU before it would sign off use of the roads.

She said the MOU included, but was not limited to, a bond or agreement underwritten by the Victorian Government's Department of Transport to ensure that:

● the roads are maintained to ensure public safety and preservation of the road reserve;

● the road, drainage, culverts and bridges are reinstated to an agreed improved minimum 15-year design life;

● there is a 12-month defects liability period post-reinstatement of road, drainage, culverts and bridges;

● amenity and safety risk assessments and mitigation strategies are identified and implemented by agreed controls; and

● there are agreed community benefits offsets for amenity impacts to the community.

Cr McClaren said further clarity of details and community engagement with residents must be met.

She said the council was "extremely disappointed" with the time frames and lack of community consultation.

“The Longwood and Locksley communities deserve the right to express their opinions on the planned detour and have their questions answered,” she said.

“They must be provided the chance to use their local knowledge to put forward creative solutions.

“More than this, we are a small rural shire who cannot afford the maintenance and upkeep to our roads that will be needed after constant use by super-loads of up to 250 tonnes.

“We will also not support vehicles being diverted at night down our roads if contraflow options are approved. This would generate significant community safety and amenity concerns.”

Longwood Action Group president Steve Tobin said residents had concerns with the super-loads — and their escorts — travelling about 25 km/h along the proposed Hill Rd in the early hours of the morning.

In a letter sent to the Department of Transport supplied to the News, Mr Tobin said he wanted an explanation of why the only option was to drive through Longwood, and demanded better consultation with the community.

Mr Tobin said using the northbound lane near the Pranjip Creek Bridge should be explored.

State Members for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell and Tania Maxwell have both raised their concerns in parliament, calling for the government to seek alternative arrangements.

A government spokesperson said meetings had started with the council and the community, and were expected to continue.

“Following meetings with community members and Strathbogie council, CPB-John Holland and the Department of Transport are continuing to look at options to get these segments from Benalla to the West Gate Tunnel project site,” a government spokesperson said.