• Tony Bosworth

North Richmond Bridge Green Route in question as Blue becomes potential preferred route

Updated: Feb 8

In a surprise move, Transport for NSW announced last night that the $500m North Richmond Bridge Duplication and bypass may not follow the contentious Green Route and instead a new ‘preferred route’ has entered the mix as a hybrid Blue Route.

The change – put before the Community Working Group on Monday evening in an online meeting – will be welcomed by millionaire polo club and horse breeding owners on Richmond Lowlands, and those Terrace Road residents who are at risk of losing their homes or properties.

Less pleased will be Southee Road residents who are still set to have part of the new road run parallel with their street, and who are unlikely to see any major changes, aside from possible earth bank noise mitigation facing them rather than the previously discussed glass shielding which would have at least retained some of their view, or Inalls Lane residents, where one family will still lose their home.

The proposed Blue Route would follow Bells Line of Road into North Richmond, go into part of Hanna Park and onto a new bridge parallel to the current bridge. It would cross the river around where the small jetty sits and would be used for traffic going in the direction of Richmond.

The road would need to be widened to provide additional lanes all the way to the new bridge.

The current bridge would carry traffic towards North Richmond.

TfNSW staff said at the meeting there had been strong opposition to the Green Route, with some 57% of survey respondents not favouring that route.

A strong and very vocal campaign – at times aimed directly at Liberal politicians after a total of half a billion dollars was announced on the riverbank by PM Morrison last year - has been run by some Richmond Lowlands landowners, with legal action also in the wings.

The impact on the polo/equestrian community was mentioned at the online meeting, with “traffic, noise and safety” cited as reasons for looking at the Blue Route instead.

The additional new preferred bridge location is essentially back to a 2012 version and will be less expensive than the Green Route because it doesn’t require so many property and land acquisitions.

But Blue is unlikely to provide a flood-free route unless the new bridge is much higher than the current one, and the off-ramp at the Richmond end is also artificially made much higher. TfNSW talked about it being flood-free in a one in five year flood event, which is a fairly minor flood.

For comparison, during the March 2021 flood, at North Richmond the peak was 14m, which is a 1:10 flood height, a 1:5 flood would just 12.5m.

What this change means is there will have to be another round of community consultation, not least with North Richmond residents but also with local businesses, before a ‘final’ preferred option is announced.

On traffic implications, there is likely to be a potential pinch-point where Grose Vale Road joins Bells Line of Road. Under the Green Route scenario, traffic coming down BLOR would have peeled off on a North Richmond bypass feeder road behind the Shell servo and then across Terrace Road, taking Bells Line of Road traffic that way to a new bridge further downstream. Under the Blue Route all that traffic will be funnelled past North Richmond shops, as happens now.

There would be no substantial changes between Green and Blue where after coming off the new bridge you’d either go to Richmond or take the planned much-widened road down Inalls Lane, which takes some car parking spaces at Colo Soccer Club grounds, and then travels adjacent to Southee Road and onto the Driftway via Londonderry Road.

But the current junction at Kurrajong Road, Old Kurrajong Road and Yarramundi Lane would still become a major junction with traffic lights.

Despite the Blue Route being less expensive than Green – TfNSW reckon it could shave $250m off – that money would be spent on the junctions, which will be extensive and take a lot of space.

So now, TfNSW says, “we will work with Council and stakeholders to determine a final preferred option that best delivers traffic benefits, town centre amenity and flood resilience”.

There is still no timeline for delivery of any new of the routes, though some work is beginning at the Richmond Road end of The Driftway under Stage 1, which was required whether there was a new route or not.

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