Works done, but critics say road is far from finished

Roadworks along New England Highway have been ongoing since July 2020 at Glen Aplin, and since October 2020 at Ballandean. Picture: JESS BAKER

By Jess Baker

As the contractors delivering major New England Highway upgrade works at Glen Aplin prepare to up sticks and move on, hundreds of road users are taking to social media to vent their frustrations.

The Queensland government has committed $19.4 million to delivering safety improvements along the New England Highway between Stanthorpe and Ballandean, and expects all sections of the road will be completed by the end of the month.

A number of local residents and businesses have been vocal in their criticism of the roadworks since they first began in Glen Aplin in July 2020, but the public’s disappointment has never been more apparent than it is today on social media.

“If that is the final finish on the highway they need to not pay the contractor because if that’s what $19.5 million buys they should have left that highway as it was,” complained one Facebook user in a post. “You can’t tell me that it has improved the road. To me there are too many variations in the final finish.”

The Facebook post has attracted nearly 100 comments since it was published on 1 June – all of them agreeing with the original poster’s sentiments.

“I’m all for improving the roads but, after all that work and money, I was kind of expecting an improvement!” wrote one Facebook user. “Can’t say that I see any improvement.”

Another wrote: “It really is a disgrace if that’s the finished product. So poorly done and yes lots of bumps and dips and very uneven.”

Several other Facebook posts expressing dissatisfaction with the current state of the highway have since been posted, and have each attracted dozens of comments.

In response to the online criticism, Member for Southern Downs James Lister has written to Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey requesting further works be undertaken to improve the road to an “appropriate standard”.

“I thank the Queensland government for its share of funding and for the delivery (of) these roadworks, however I have received many complaints from constituents regarding the standard of road surface which has been delivered,” Mr Lister wrote to Minister Bailey on Monday 7 June.

“I have personally driven the sections of the New England Highway in question and I concur with the concerns expressed to me.

“Particularly, the road surface appears to be composed of multiple surface finishes including rough and lumpy surfaces with poor water drainage.”

Mr Lister wrote that the roadworks have resulted in six months of single lane traffic diversions at three locations, causing “considerable inconvenience and cost to local motorists and businesses”.

“In light of these costs, and the taxpayer cost of the project, it is understandable that the community expects the road to be in better condition at project completion than it was before the works commenced,” he wrote.

“In my opinion, and in the opinion of many of my constituents, this expectation has not been met.”

A Transport and Main Roads spokesman told Warwick and Stanthorpe Today on Friday 4 June that road users were still not driving on the finished surface “for much of the project”.

“The widening works are being delivered in four packages with various sections of the road still requiring their final seal,” he said.

“The final seal will be the full width of the road, providing a better surface.”

The TMR spokesman said that above-average rainfall in March impacted the works between Stanthorpe and Ballandean and pushed the project’s expected completion date to the end of June 2021.

“The damage to some sections required additional work and delayed progress, which we appreciate has caused frustration,” he said.

The spokesman said the upgrades will be monitored for three months following the end of the works to ensure they are delivered to the required standard.