Over the last few months, our teams across the state have put in an extraordinary effort to support communities in responding to the bushfire crisis. Throughout this time, our people have shown amazing resilience, professionalism and care.
We have hundreds of staff out in the fire-affected regions helping to coordinate the response including managing road closures on the ground, directing customers to alternative routes and services, geotechnical and arborist teams inspecting roads and rail line conditions, and crews clearing vegetation and debris under catastrophic conditions.
Throughout the bushfires, regional teams in partnership with the Transport Management Centre have taken a proactive approach where possible to keep customers and industry informed as early as possible of road closures and service disruptions with some of the most significant impacts including multiple road closures in both directions along the Princes Highway given the ongoing fires along the South Coast.
In particular, the Currowan bushfire has burnt over 308 thousand hectares since it began in late November, causing major road closures affecting both the Princes and Kings highways in December, which in turn impacted freight deliveries to and from Batemans Bay. To assist the local community, regional Transport teams took proactive steps to improve freight movements and ensure food, fuel and other supplies could reach the area. This included accelerating the assessment of fire damaged sections of the Princes highway to ensure timely recovery efforts to safely re-open roads for the community.
NSW TrainLink teams were swift to replace train services on the Blue Mountains line as a result of bushfire damage to sections of the track and signalling structures, while coaches replace trains for the entire journey Dubbo to Broken Hill journey. Crews are working hard to restore infrastructure including overhead power to run electric trains with resumption of services to be determined later this month.
Additionally, Maritime teams are also working hand in hand with a number of water-based agencies including the Rural Fire Service and Marine Area Command to ensure boaters are safe, and are assisting with the delivery of provisions and supplies and evacuations by water, as needed.
Crews are also carrying out much needed repairs on some parts of the transport networks. As significant fires continue to burn across most of our state, impacting our people, our network and our customers, crews have been working hard to start assessing the impact caused to roads and the rail network.
Recovery efforts continue in the northern area of the state following fires from mid-2019 including the Oxley and Gwydir highways, critical east–west links for communities and freight. Due to the extensive damage to safety barriers and guardrails, culverts, signs and some retaining wall structures, work to restore the highway will take several months while road conditions continue to be monitored daily and traffic management arrangements adjusted to improve safety and travel efficiency.
The priority areas for the next few weeks are the South Coast, Snowy Mountains and Monaro, and Southern Highlands with a number of active fires still present. The focus of Transport teams will be the assessment of the road and rail network, including the assessment and removal of hazardous trees and power poles, making the network safe to be travelled.
The focus will then shift to coordinating a program of works, where needed, with Local Councils to address infrastructure and asset damage such as replacing safety barriers and signage, repairing road surfaces and reinstating line marking. Where possible, work will start immediately to open roads where minor work, such as the removal of dangerous trees and emergency road surface repairs, are required.