Earlier this evening I took a drive out to the intersection of The Northern Road and Andromeda Drive in Cranebrook, where 17-year-old Kieren Birks tragically lost his life on Monday.
I’ve been through the intersection a thousand times but after talking with Councillor John Thain on Tuesday, I wanted to have a really good look at it.
Councillor Thain, among many others, has been vocal over the years about how important it was to upgrade this particular intersection. His point has now been proven in the most tragic of ways.
The intersection is a nightmare that defies logic, is confusing and is simply inadequate for the amount of traffic it handles.
Kieren Birks was a novice driver and, it would seem, made an error of judgement that had the most awful of consequences.
But you can’t help but feel angry that the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), who control The Northern Road, have sat on their hands and done nothing for years despite constant community concerns about the intersection.
In the October 25, 2013 edition of The Western Weekender, we ran a story with the headline: “Blame game: Intersection must be fixed”.
It spoke of the ongoing problems at the intersection and of a disagreement between Penrith Council and the RMS over whose responsibility it is – given The Northern Road is an RMS-controlled road and Andromeda Drive is a Council-controlled road.
It seems pretty obvious to me that it’s the RMS’ responsibility to fix given The Northern Road carries the bulk of the traffic.
Last year Council advised the RMS that it recommended a roundabout be placed at the intersection. Almost a year later the RMS has done zilch.
In fact they have continued to allow perhaps the most ridiculous intersection in the Penrith LGA to continue to operate as it is. The fact that traffic turning left off The Northern Road into Andromeda Drive has to randomly give way to traffic turning right from the other direction simply lacks common sense and seems to defy the road rules that operate everywhere else.
It would seem that the bizarre give way structure was actually implemented by Council – whoever decided that should be given a performance review immediately.
Somebody at the RMS endorsed the new structure – give them a performance review as well.
What’s worse is that for the last three years, it’s stayed this way.
And in my view the RMS is the department that has blood on its hands.
Council knows the intersection is a problem but can only do so much given The Northern Road is controlled by the RMS. It has been lobbying the RMS since 2013 for improvements to be made to the entire intersection.
I can reveal that Council received correspondence in October last year from Roads Minister Duncan Gay, advising that a funding application has been submitted by the RMS for safety improvements at the intersection.
Five months later and it’s cold comfort to the family of Kieren Birks.
Mr Gay has been in the Penrith LGA a lot since he became Roads Minister. I wonder how many times he has visited the intersection of The Northern Road and Andromeda Drive?
Politicians spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back when it comes to road upgrades. They so often hold photo opportunities when funding is secured, when construction begins and when construction is finished. Heck, they even hold “50% completion” photo opportunities.
The soft PR crap is fine until you realise what a joke it is when we lose a 17-year-old with his life ahead of him, all because nobody could pull their finger out in the last three years and fix a problem so many people have been so vocal about.
Eventually, The Northern Road and Andromeda Drive intersection will be fixed.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.