New bridge flood mitigation "minimal" and congestion would remain, committee finds

Flood mitigation impacts would be minimal and traffic congestion leading to and around Windsor bridge would remain a problem following the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project, a NSW Parliamentary inquiry has found.

The report into the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project was tabled in State Parliament today (Wednesday), and while the committee found there had been flaws with the project’s process, it stopped short of recommending it cease.

Protest: Protesters continue their fight against the new Windsor bridge works earlier this year. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Protest: Protesters continue their fight against the new Windsor bridge works earlier this year. Picture: Geoff Jones.

“Flood mitigation impacts of the new bridge design will be minimal, and traffic congestion will remain an issue in the streets leading to and around Windsor Bridge,” the report’s findings stated. “While the project to replace the bridge may never have provided the necessary panacea to address these issues, the committee agrees with stakeholders that the opportunity to creatively address these issues has now been lost.”

The failure to subject the project to “a comprehensive independent assurance process” undermined its justification and the credibility of the chosen design, “thereby exacerbating community opposition”, it stated.

Options presented to the community “presumed a preference for the replacement of the existing bridge infrastructure” and “options developed by the then-Roads and Traffic Authority in 2009 to replace or rehabilitate Windsor Bridge were too narrow in focus”, it found.

“The Roads and Traffic Authority should have given further consideration to alternative options to address the structural integrity of Windsor Bridge,” the report stated. “This would have enabled the agency to more comprehensively assess the merits of all options so as to leave no doubt that the option chosen was the best available for the Windsor community and other users of the bridge.”

The committee recommended the State Government work with heritage experts and stakeholders to minimise heritage impacts of the project “and identify how information on the brick barrel drains can be appropriately and meaningfully exhibited on-site, or at a local venue, such as the Windsor Museum. Recommendation”.

It also recommended the existing bridge be retained “for pedestrian, cycling and light vehicle use”.

Dissenting statements

In a dissenting statement to the committee, Liberal Upper House MP Scot MacDonald said the project had been politically hijacked by Labor candidate for Hawkesbury, Peter Reynolds, and Macquarie MP Susan Templeman.

“Cr Peter Reynolds and Susan Templeman MP need to reflect on their strategy of putting their party and personal political priorities ahead of safety and long overdue infrastructure investment,” Mr MacDonald said in his statement.

Comment has been sought from Cr Reynolds and Ms Templeman.

Both Labor and the Greens had voted at the committee inquiry meeting to immediately cease all onsite works for the new bridge, which Mr MacDonald said would have made any alternative bridge or infrastructure unlikely for many years.

“This would potentially lead to catastrophic structural failure of the existing Windsor Bridge. The technical advice heard during the Inquiry was the existing bridge had reached the end of its serviceable life and currently did not meet engineering and safety standards,” he said in a statement.

“The RMS business case for the new Windsor Bridge noted it will provide a unified open space in Thompson Square and improved safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

“The NSW Liberal National Government and [Hawkesbury MP] Dominic Perrottet are committed to replacing the Windsor Bridge as outlined in the RMS Final Business Case. This gives certainty to the community and has tangible economic and environmental benefits.”

In their dissenting statement to the committee, Labor representatives Peter Primrose and Daniel Mookhey said the committee should have recommended halting the project.

“We believe that on the evidence presented, the committee should have recommended that the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government immediately cause all works on the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project to cease,” their statement said. “The government could then have consulted with the local community, to develop alternative options such as a bypass that would genuinely address Windsor's future traffic needs while protecting its heritage.”

Then-NSW Upper House Greens MP turned Senator, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, said by not recommending that the project cease, the committee had lost the opportunity to “right a wrong that has been imposed on the Windsor community” and seek an alternative solution.

“Implementation of recommendations in this report will go some way towards regaining the community’s trust. However, stopping the Windsor Bridge replacement project and bringing back a bypass solution to the community is critical to addressing core issues raised by the Windsor community,” her dissenting statement said. “Given the evidence presented to the inquiry, I believe the project must be stopped.”