With the current road networks across regional NSW in disarray and unlikely to be rectified any time soon due to weather events, the community of Wallendbeen is being treated with contempt by TFNSW and the NSW Government over the replacement of a bridge that traversed the main line from Sydney to Melbourne for more than 100 years.

Assurances by the NSW government that it would listen to the community about the design of a new road-over-rail bridge on Burley Griffin Way at Wallendbeen were revealed as hollow at a meeting in the township on Thursday 8 September.

Sheltered from heavy rain at a “drop-in” meeting at Mackay Park, residents were shocked to hear from a Department of Transport spokesman, Johnathon Tasker, that tenders for the bridge’s construction had been called at the beginning of June and had closed at the end of July, with the selection process due to finish soon.

Under heavy questioning by the president of the Wallendbeen Community Association, Greg Quirk, Mr Tasker admitted that despite extremely strong feedback from the community asking for pedestrian and cyclist access, there had been no changes to the design, and construction would begin before the end of the year.

“They gave us to understand that there would be some modification to the design to allow a pedestrian and cycling lane to be added alongside the structure, but we now find out there had been no modifications whatever,” Mr Quirk said.

“The department has been inviting our feedback and telling us they’ve been listening, but it seems they’ve known all along it was a done deal.”

A statement issued by the department the previous week said “we are listening to the community and are investigating options with a strong focus on how we might provide dedicated access for pedestrians and cyclists”.

Mr Quirk said residents were disappointed, to put it mildly, that the government had done a “snow job” on the community.

“The option of attaching another bridge to the new one was not really serious anyway, as it would involve extra funding that the Department has not offered,” he said.

“They have suggested that at some time in the future someone else might like to design and fund the solution—the likelihood of that happening is low.” Another option, favoured by residents, was to leave the current temporary bridge in place permanently so that it could be used by residents to walk, ride horses or cycle from one side of the village to the other.

Mr Tasker said this would not be possible for a variety of reasons, but there was an option to leave the abutments so that a new purpose-built pedestrian bridge could be built and installed at some time in the future.

Mr Quirk said this was not considered as a concession by the community as the abutments, massive concrete footings, could not be removed anyway, and unless attached to a bridge would become an eyesore.

Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council Mayor Charlie Sheahan, who was present at the recent meeting, agreed that the council could negotiate with the department on furthering this option, but Mr Quirk said it would require hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding that the department had not offered.

If work starts as announced late this year, the department expects the new bridge will take about a year to complete, weather permitting.

The temporary bridge which has been in operation at Wallendbeen for the past year. Residents have asked it be left in place for pedestrian and cycle access after the new bridge is completed. The department says that would not be a viable option, but it will leave behind the abutments on which the bridge rests.