Morwell repairs underway, but no reopening date in sight

Repairs begin on damaged bypass on the Princes Freeway that is causing significant delays to trucking operators and motorists

By Brad Gardner | May 26, 2011

Repair works are underway to fix a section of the Princes Highway in regional Victoria that has been plaguing trucking operators for months.

The Victorian Government and Hazelwood Power Corporation have ended their stand-off over who should take responsibility for repairing a broken stormwater drain on the Morwell Bypass.

The route was closed on February 10, causing delays to Gippsland trucking operators and an increase in traffic through Morwell’s town centre.

Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien says taxpayers will cover the $2 million cost to help Hazelwood complete design and remediation works to fix the drain under an agreement brokered to resolve the dispute.

"This is a very important breakthrough, but I stress that the ultimate decision about reopening the road will be taken by Victoria Police and VicRoads based on expert advice. That is the only responsible course of action," O’Brien says.

Hazelwood took the government to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal after O’Brien tried to order it to complete remedial works.

O’Brien says drilling is ongoing to reduce water pressure, while teams also begin work to repair holes and cracks in the main drain as a short-term solution.

"My department has commissioned a design study on longer term remediation works, and we will make it available to the Hazelwood Power Corporation," he says.

O’Brien told Parliament the government understands the disruption the closure has had on Gippsland and Morwell residents, but reiterated the route will not reopen until it is safe.

Eastern Victoria MP Matthew Viney wants the bypass reopened immediately, claiming there has been an increase in accidents since its closure.

O’Brien says reopening the route immediately will put lives at risk. He labelled Viney’s suggestion "one of the most irresponsible and reckless things I have ever heard".

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