CHRISTMAS IS COMING: Warrego Highway upgrades along the eastern approach to Chinchilla.
CHRISTMAS IS COMING: Warrego Highway upgrades along the eastern approach to Chinchilla. Matthew Newton

The reasons behind Chinchilla-Brigalow roadwork delays

ROADWORKS that were originally meant to take nine months will blow out to a 16-month project by the time of completion in February 2017.

The State Department for Transport and Main Roads has declared publicly delays with the Chinchilla to Brigalow road upgrade are the result of "wet weather".

But the Chinchilla News can reveal that there were also problems with the foam bitumen used to seal the road, something TMR has refused to admit over the course of three months of enquiries.

According to the State Government's Queensland Roads and Investment Program, the Brigalow to Chinchilla road upgrade was originally budgeted for $36 million in the 2015/16 financial year.

The contract for the upgrade was awarded to Ostwald Brothers on September 16, 2015 and work commenced on October 19 of that year with a State Government source saying the project was "expected to be completed by July 2016".

By the time the 2016/17 State Budget was announced and the latest version of the QRIP was released, the road upgrade had been allocated an extra $3.6 million.

Now, five months on from when the roadworks were originally scheduled to be finished, a TMR spokesperson confirmed the project was still two months from completion.

The Chinchilla News began investigating in late August what issues were impacting the road upgrade and has been told repeatedly the delays are the result of wet weather.

However, a TMR briefing note written for the Federal Department of Infrastructure (which provided 80% of the funding for the road upgrade project) and obtained by the Chinchilla News indicates there's more to the story.

"Technical issues with foam bitumen (materials and construction processes), as well as wet weather has delayed the completion of this project," the note reads.

"In preparation for the final foam bitumen base layer, stockpiles of base gravel have been stored under cover. Provided water is excluded from the manufacture of the foam bitumen product, laying the gravel should not be hindered by further rain events in the lead up to Christmas."

A TMR spokesperson said the additional $3.6 million dollars that had been channelled into the project would be used for "extra lane widening added during final design stages".

When asked what cost-saving measures TMR had undertaken to stay under budget, given the project was going to be seven months overdue and contractor Ostwald Brothers was still paying wages, a TMR spokesperson replied: "Savings to the project have been realised as part of the tender process, where market conditions led to competitive tender submissions".

That tender process was finalised in September 2015.

State Member for Warrego Ann Leahy said the former LNP State Government and Federal Coalition Government fought hard for the Warrego Highway upgrade projects in the previous terms of government.

"It is disappointing to see the delays in the Chinchilla to Brigalow Project and this has been a concern expressed by community members," she said.

"I call on the State Department of Main Roads to confirm that no other Warrego Highway upgrade project has been delayed, or cut short of funding, due to the delays or any cost overruns, with the Chinchilla - Brigalow project," she said.

A TMR spokesperson said there had been "no funding cuts or cost overruns, and this project will be delivered with savings."

"Technical challenges can arise on any road project and we work with contractors to resolve these as required," the spokesperson said.

"Any such challenges on this project were minor and not a significant contributing factor to the delays experienced.

"As previously confirmed, the wet weather early in this project caused damage to early works which required fixing before proceeding with the remaining works."

Ostwald Brothers were contacted for comment but referred the Chinchilla News to TMR.

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