Roadworks hamper fire brigade

Officer CFA captain Robert McCandless says the brigade has been severely hampered by roadworks along Station Street. Pictures: STEWART CHAMBERS 390973_03

As Officer continues to be plagued by ongoing and delayed roadworks, the town’s CFA fire brigade is also feeling the pain.

The brigade is located on Station Street, which has been undergoing roadworks for months with the left-hand slip lane being upgraded as well as the Tivendale Road intersection.

Officer CFA captain Robert McCandless said due to access being blocked from the highway, this has severely impacted members being able to get to the station when responding to incidents.

“It restricts our members who live on the north side getting into the station,” he said.

“It’s causing a massive delay and then the added delay for them is they have to go past the station where there are reduced speed limits and heavy traffic depending on the time of the day.”

Mr McCandless highlighted the main issue was that works were being delayed with little to no communication from the responsible authority, Cardinia Shire Council, while it was also difficult initially finding out who was responsible for them.

It was understood that works would only last for roughly three months in 2023, but it is now starting to approach almost one year.

Late last year, Mr McCandless raised concerns about the impact it was having on the brigade and how it could affect the fire season when speaking with a project manager.

“I said we can’t be restricted during the fire season getting into the station,” he said.

“If we have a significant fire in the Officer South area, it will impact our response.”

He added that since that time there’s been no further update on when the works will be finished.

“It’s been very frustrating,” he said.

And to add to their woes, traffic will be blocked permanently from travelling across the level crossing on Station Street, meaning there is no direct line south for the brigade.

“If we can’t get to the south side it’s a concern, if there’s a critical incident and we need 20 trucks, they’ll all have to go down the road, it’s not really ideal,” he said.

Rob highlighted they now have more than 50 members, and had spoken about his concerns with Pakenham MP Emma Vulin regarding both the level crossing removal and roadworks.

Ms Vulin confirmed she was aware of the issues.

“Captain Rob McCandless and I have had conversations about the issues that the Officer fire brigade are currently having the roadworks at the intersection of Station Street and Princes Highway in Officer,” she said.

“I understand the importance of Cardinia Shire Council completing these works as soon as possible.

“I have spoken with the council and ensured the manager of the project reached out to the brigade to provide updates. I understand these works have taken longer than initially thought due to some complications.

“As far as the level crossing removal, I’ve also had discussions about what provisions may be possible to maintain the brigade’s responsiveness once the level crossing is removed at Station Street and these discussions are ongoing.”

Cardinia Shire Council’s acting manager Community Infrastructure Delivery, Dan Hammond confirmed Station Street is expected to reopen from Friday March 1.

“The Tivendale Road and Princes Highway intersection project is expected to be completed by April 2024,” he said.

“Asphalting works are scheduled to take place from Tuesday March 27, 2024 and are expected take approximately three days to be completed, weather permitting.  

“It is expected that Station Street will be reopened to the public from Friday March 1, 2024, and pending approvals from government authorities, the right-turn lane from Princes Highway into Station Station will also be reopened. 

“While these works are being completed, we are encouraging businesses to advise their regular patrons about access and parking options, including using Siding Avenue to make a u-turn to travel back towards Beaconsfield.   

“Please note that additional works are still being completed as part of the Princes Highway intersection projects including works along the service road near Siding Avenue, median works and works to the Bayview Road intersection. 

“Access will continue to be maintained to businesses and properties surrounding this intersection, however, please note traffic management including reduced speed limits, lane closures, traffic diversions and temporary shared path detours will remain in place.” 

The Level Crossing Removal Project also confirmed that the Station Street level crossing removal will go ahead once works are completed at the Brunt Road level crossing removal, which will be removed a year ahead of schedule in mid-2024.

Site investigations are currently underway at Station Street.

“We’re closing the dangerous level crossing at Station Street, Officer by 2025 – which will help make the Pakenham Line level crossing-free,” said Travis Edmonds, program director Level Crossing Removal Project

“We’re also working to remove the nearby Brunt Road, Beaconsfield level crossing by building a new road bridge over the rail line, set to open a year ahead of schedule in mid-2024.”

“When the new Brunt Road bridge opens, locals will have a new, safer option to cross the rail line – allowing us to close the Station Street Officer level crossing.”