Hunter Roads

Today’s front page of the Cessnock Advertiser screams: “Will it take a death?” This is the daily concern of Weston residents who fear someone will lose their life at the intersection of Gingers Lane, Government Road, Hart Road and Sawyers Gully Road, near the Weston interchange of the Hunter Expressway. Prior to the construction of the Hunter Expressway, this section of road was relatively quiet. It was used as a back road connecting Weston with Rutherford. But the opening of the Hunter Expressway has created consequences that were not clearly considered by Roads and Maritime Services.

Over the past four years there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of traffic on the roads that feed into the Hunter Expressway, and this intersection has emerged as a popular access point. Quite frankly, it cannot cope with the volume. Traffic has increased tenfold at this intersection and crashes are a regular occurrence. In fact, in the past two weeks there have been three crashes at this intersection, and they can be added to the list of many that have occurred since the opening of the Hunter Expressway five years ago. Luckily no-one was killed in those crashes, but some motorists were seriously injured.

There are growing calls in the Weston community for action to be taken immediately to make this intersection safer. Local residents are concerned that since the opening of the Hunter Expressway, Gingers Lane now resembles Pitt Street because of the amount of traffic using it. The lane was never designed to cater for large volumes of traffic; rather it was meant to serve a quiet residential street. People are taking a shortcut along Gingers Lane to access the interchange and this creates congestion. It is now almost impossible for vehicles to turn right from Gingers Lane onto Government Road because of the massive increase in traffic travelling through the interchange.

Visibility issues at the intersection prevent motorists from seeing oncoming traffic from the left and the right, particularly vehicles coming towards the intersection from Sawyers Gully Road, where there is an 80 kilometre zone just up the road. Speeding is also a significant problem through the intersection and along Sawyers Gully and Government roads. That is largely because some of the feeder roads are in 80 kilometre zones and the Hunter Expressway, albeit separated, has a 100 kilometre speed limit. Motorists fail to adhere to the stop sign at the Gingers Lane and Government Road intersection, and this also increases the likelihood of crashes.

I appreciate that human error is causing that problem but we can either complain about the behaviour or do something to prevent it from causing an accident. Finally, the intersection of Gingers Lane and Sawyers Gully Road also acts as a bus stop for local school students. With the increase in traffic through this intersection, particularly traffic travelling in excess of 80 kilometres per hour, there is a real risk that students will be injured or killed by speeding vehicles that lose control at the intersection or a student might be struck by one of the vehicles involved in one of the frequent crashes at this intersection. In the last week I have received approximately 30 letters from concerned Weston residents who fear the worst if a solution is not implemented at this intersection soon. Of course we all understand what the worst is: It is another death on our roads.

These residents are begging for action from Cessnock City Council and the Roads and Maritime Services. They are not interested in which level of government is responsible for delivering a solution. All they want is for someone to act. All they ask for is some traffic lights, a lowering of the speed limit and relocating the school bus stop away from the intersection. These simple measures are sure to improve the safety of the intersection for everyone and will potentially save a life. I have conveyed my concerns and those of Weston residents to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight on a number of occasions. I am hoping that she, in conjunction with the local council, will act and find a funding solution that will fix this intersection. At the opening of the Hunter Expressway the former Minister for Roads and Freight, the Hon. Duncan Gay, promised that the Coalition Government would monitor and respond to any issues that arose due to the increase in traffic on the expressway feeder roads. This part of the road is one of those feeder roads. The Hon. Duncan Gay said:

We are going to have a look at it and if it needs something done, we are not going to leave the roads in an unfortunate situation.

I know that former Minister Gay has long left the building, but his words still ring true to my local residents and they ring true to common sense. There is a problem at this corner. One resident summed it up well when she said:

It’s disgusting that it would take a death to escalate it—we shouldn’t have to wait for that.

That is the general consensus of the people of Weston. I implore the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight to intervene and find a solution for this dangerous intersection before a local resident is killed.