Michael Ferguson,Minister for Infrastructure and Transport
The Tasmanian Government has taken immediate action to get the safety works on the Tasman Highway underway, ensuring they can be completed as soon as possible noting the urgent new advice we received last week.
Site monitoring systems have now been installed with three tilt monitors and 12 survey points established. Yesterday, the highway protections were put in place, with a special fabric placed on the road and 2000 tonnes of gravel laid as a ‘cushion’ on the road to prevent it from being damaged by falling rocks.
Work to establish safe access and anchor points at the top of the site is underway today.
Teams will also start clearing vegetation from the site today which is expected to take two to three days and we should know exactly how much rock needs to be removed once the site is cleared.
The rock we need to remove is just one part of a complex rock formation along the gorge and it is important that we move the rock safely and efficiently. The best way to do this is to dislodge the rocks using airbags and allow them to fall onto the gravel cushion on the road, and then to use explosives to break up large chunks of rock that have been dropped.
Once all the rock has been dropped to the road we will have a much clearer understanding of how long it will take to clear the road and reopen the highway.
The particular rock that State Growth has been monitoring is not the immediate risk. On detailed expert advice, and with the use of drones, a larger risk had been identified with an adjacent rock and was urgently brought to Government last week.
In the meantime, we have taken immediate action to improve safety on Wielangta Road for people using it as an alternative route while the Tasman Highway is closed.
While people are encouraged to use Lake Leake Road as an alternative and sealed route, Wielangta Road is now available to motorists and they are encouraged to drive to the conditions.
Immediate improvements to Wielangta Road were completed last week and included laying new gravel, grading and putting in extra road markers and warning signs. The speed limit on the road has been temporarily reduced to 60 km/h overall, and 40 km/h in some short sections.
Contractors are regularly monitoring the road’s condition and any issues found will be urgently repaired. A grader remains on standby onsite, with gravel stores, to make immediate repairs when necessary.
Department of State Growth transport inspectors have been temporarily stationed at either end of Wielangta Road to monitor traffic and provide information to road users and Tasmania Police has an increased presence.
Motorists are encouraged to call the Department’s hotline on 1300 139 933 if they notice a hazard or issue on the State Road network or on Wielangta Road. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and details of any issues reported will be logged for repair.
Again, I want to acknowledge the significant disruption this is having on the local community. I will be visiting the East Coast tomorrow to inspect the Wielangta Road improvements for myself and speak with impacted business owners. Safety must come first but we are doing everything we can to minimise disruption to the community.
Ongoing updates and more detailed information on this work are available at www.transport.tas.gov.au/orford