Editorial: The Overpass: A Tale of the Ridiculous

Filed in Key Issues, Opinions, Recent News by September 18, 2019

IN 100 years time when people are waiting at the level crossings on Liverpool Street and Kelly Street and they wonder why an overpass wasn’t placed in town, here is the story of how it failed to happen…

IN the beginning, residents waited at the boom gates on Liverpool Street and Kelly Street in Scone as coal trains rolled through the town with increasing frequency.

An overpass was put forward as a solution to prevent the town from being cut in half by the rail line.

A few proposed an underpass, but apparently the engineering involved was too great, while those supporters pointed to some of the world’s great engineering feats including the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, it was to no avail and the underpass was squashed. 

Then the argument ensued about where to put a overpass.

  • Kelly Street: the draw back was it would cut into Elizabeth Park and it is a lovely park;
  • Liverpool Street: the draw back was the over pass would have to be REALLY high;
  • St Aubins: the draw back was the over pass would cut Guernsey Street in half and motorists would have to drive an entire block to get around the blockage.

It was all very confusing and no clear decision was made.

Elizabeth Flaherty, editor of scone.com.au. Photo: Amanda Gaffney-Ray.

As the plans continued to be argued about where it could be placed, the Roads and Maritime Services decided a bypass was the solution, it would provide an out-of-town overpass at the southern end of town so highway traffic would not be kept waiting for those trains and ticked their box for circumventing another town on a major national highway.

But the bypass didn’t solve the solution of residents waiting at the boom gates on Liverpool Street and Kelly Street, which is what the townspeople had always wanted.

So a deal was struck that if the bypass was shortened slightly there would still be budget for an in-town overpass, but as the project of the bypass marched on there was still no clear decision on where the overpass could go, so the RMS got tired of waiting, almost as tired as the residents waiting at the crossings and the budget set aside for an overpass was absorbed and they took the option of the table.

If the Council wanted an in-town overpass they’d have to find another bucket of money and do it themselves.

In the meantime, the Council had been swept up in the romance of removing heavy vehicles from the “CBD” of Scone, lulled by the idea of being able to sip a latte in the newly designed main street, without the noise of semi-trailers and wafting smells of cattle trucks. All trucks must go!

Meanwhile, residents sat patiently at the boom gates in Liverpool Street and Kelly Street waiting for the coal trains to roll through.

But the bypass offered another great opportunity for removing the trucks from the township, with the northern entry point of the bypass strategically positioned near the new industrial area. Brilliant! The trucks travelling to the industrial area could now go direct.

But there were still trucks that would roll through the CBD on a Tuesday for the sale yards and they were the smelliest of all, how could they be removed?

Linking the new industrial area to the old industrial area with the sale yards seemed like the most practical idea.

A close look at the maps showed two old travelling stock routes which crossed the rail line in that area, offering the perfect opportunity to connect the two industrial areas and make them one. 

The “old” rail crossing near the Scone sale yards – the padlock hadn’t worked this day when the photo was taken.

Then things got confusing, the state government has a policy not to open any “new” level rail crossings, which seemed fair enough, after all who wants to be forced to sit in their car, while trains are rolling through?

Avoiding “new” level crossings is also a great way to reduce the risk of people being struck by trains and unfortunately Scone has many examples of those risks from several coronial enquiries of locals who have died crossing the rail line near Liverpool crossing, to recent bingles with passenger trains on private crossings. 

The policy seemed fair enough, no “new” level crossings creating “new” headaches; the people sitting at the Liverpool Street and Kelly Street level crossings already had a headache.

The two rail crossings near the sale yards, were not new, they were very old, dating back to when people used to herd their livestock across the rail line to get to the sale yards.

During all the confusion between “old” and “new”, a coal train broke down completely cutting the town in half, the train was so long there was no way to get around…people went back to the old maps and a way was found!

The old rail crossings in town which were padlocked tight at Kingdon Street and near the sale yards were the perfect solution, they measured the longest trains and realised if a train broke down again, one of the old crossings would still be clear.

Keys to the gates were given to emergency services, albeit under another lock and key to access the padlock keys, but the solution had been found for when the next train broke down.

As the people who make decisions about over passes and rail crossings scratched their heads, people continued to sit in their cars at Liverpool and Kelly waiting for the coal trains.

How could the cattle trucks get across the rail line to the sale yards from the bypass?

The state government does want any new crossings and while there are two old crossing already there, they were padlocked. What to do? And where could an overpass go?

While the state government frowns upon new level crossings, closing level crossings really ticks their boxes.

There was a wild and crazy idea that if the padlock on the old crossing to the sale yards was removed and boom gates and lights installed to make them safer then the trucks could pass.

And if an overpass was placed in town then there would be one less level crossing in the world, in fact, if there was an overpass in town, some of the older crossings at Kingdon Street and the second crossing near the sale yards could be permanently wiped off the map, giving a total of THREE level crossing closures! That would definitely tick some bureaucratic boxes!

Seemed simple, but there was a new direction happening….so back to the trucks of a Tuesday.

The two old crossings near the sale yards were padlocked, the trucks needed to get across the rail line on Tuesday and nobody could decide where to put the overpass for the people waiting at the rail line in town.

So, after much head scratching the Council has decided……the overpass will go to the sale yards!

They have purchased the land and they are ready to get $10’s of millions of dollars from the state government to build it.

Problem solved!

Except, at the end of this ridiculously complicated story, for the next 100 years residents will be left waiting at the boom gates on Liverpool and Kelly Street as the coal trains roll through.

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Elizabeth Flaherty
Editor, scone.com.au

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