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TfNSW Blames Early Dam Spill for Bridge Damage

Apr 8, 2024

Transport for NSW has blamed the premature spilling of Warragamba Dam to its inability to lower the guard rails on Richmond Bridge, leading to delays in its reopening and widespread commuter chaos. 

Images circulating on social media this morning depicted extensive debris and damaged guard rails and pipes on the bridge, confirming suspicions that the guard rails had not been lowered prior to the closure.

The Hawkesbury Post has been told that the unexpected early spilling of Warragamba Dam caused the river levels to rise more rapidly than usual, rendering it unsafe to lower the guard rails on Richmond Bridge.

“In all weather events, we leave lowering the pedestrian barriers until as late as possible because doing so too early could trap pedestrians on the wrong side of the river with no alternative travel options available to them,” a TfNSW spokesperson told the Hawkesbury Post. 

“During a weather event, the same crew lowers the pedestrian barriers on Yarramundi Bridge and North Richmond Bridge in that order. Water levels were already too high to safely put crews onto North Richmond Bridge to lower the barriers,” he said.

May be an image of 1 person, fishing and fishing rod

He said North Richmond Bridge has been assessed and will be opened to traffic today once the cleanup has been completed. Some repairs will be carried out to the pedestrian safety barrier.

TfNSW said is working with the contractor to ensure future scheduling of the removal of the pedestrian rails is done in time to optimise safety of pedestrians and ensure rail removal before flood water is too high.

Residents and landowners were caught off guard early Saturday morning when they learned that Warragamba Dam would spill two days earlier than previously announced by Water NSW, leaving many scrambling to evacuate amidst heavy rain and darkness before evacuation routes became impassable.

The failure to detach the bridge railings exacerbates Richmond Bridge closure times, and has caused traffic chaos as commuters try to find alternative routes to work. 

Troubling images taken last night and posted on the Hawkesbury Traffic Stats page appear to show a large pipe that is usually attached to the side of the bridge, which seems to have detached.

This is not the first time TfNSW has failed to detach the railings before the bridge closes. Failure to do so increases the time the bridge is out of action and the risk of serious damage. This frustrates the community, especially those west of the river, who rely on the North Richmond bridge as a piece of critical infrastructure and vital access route.

Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman MP told the Post: “It is really dismaying to see the photos of the debris on the bridge and I have sent them to the office of Minister for Transport. If Transport for NSW or their contractor failed to take down the railings before the bridge flooded, there needs to be an explanation to the community of how that happened and what will be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“This has created additional traffic chaos, which may well have been avoidable,” she said.

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