A Marulan district resident is challenging a quarry company to 'seriously' explore rail transport as it seeks to significantly expand its operation.
Gunlake Quarry at Brayton is lodging two applications to increase production and truck numbers on its primary transport route. This takes in Brayton, Ambrose and Redhills Road, joining with the Hume Highway north of Marulan.
While it is not applying to change truck movements on its southern route, through Marulan, Brayton resident Ken Wray argues it's high time the company considers rail. He lives 2km from the quarry.
"One condition of the Land and Environment Court's (conciliated) ruling in June 2017 was that within 10 years of that consent Gunlake should review its transport options," he said.
"My view is they should do that now and look at rail, do a full cost benefit analysis, not just looking at the cost to Gunlake but also to people travelling the Hume Highway. They should also make it public."
The company has previously ruled out the rail option, including a link to Holcim's Lynwood rail siding nearby, on the basis of cost.
In 2017, Gunlake sought to increase production from 750,000 tonnes to two million tonnes annually and trucks from an average 164 to 440 daily.
The Planning Assessment Commission refused the plan, partly on the basis of road safety concerns. This was despite the NSW Planning department's recommended approval.
In a subsequent conciliated agreement before the NSW Land and Environment Court, the expansion was allowed to proceed but trucks on the primary transport route were limited to 370 per day, including return trips, once production reached 1.5 million tonnes.
Now Gunlake is applying to the court for an average 440 daily truck movements, including return trips, and a maximum 590 each day.
The company sees it as an interim solution to what it says is increased demand for its "high quality quarry and concreting products."
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In the meantime, it is lodging a new State Significant Development (SSD) application for an average 690 trucks daily, including return, and a maximum 750 each day on the primary transport route.
This also seeks to increase quarrying and processing rates; boost its workforce; and extend quarry operations by 30 years to 2051. there are no changes to the disturbance area, pit depth, hours of operation or blasting frequency.
"There is a huge infrastructure program being undertaken in NSW, particularly in Greater Sydney by the state and federal governments and there is a marked increase in demand for Gunlake's premium aggregates and civil products such as road base, drainage aggregates, crusher dust for the residential, industrial and commercial construction sectors," the company's community and stakeholder engagement officer, Geoff Kettle said.
"Gunlake is ideally situated to meet future demand requirements. Modifications and SSD applications can take years to navigate the NSW planning system and that is why we need to start working on these applications now."
Despite repeated questions, Gunlake will not say what tonnage increase it is seeking. Mr Wray, a community consultative committee member, said he'd also sought this information and been "stonewalled."
In fog it is a death trap...There will be an accident, it's as simple as that.- Ken Wray
Mr Kettle said the company was asking the operation to be limited by truck movements, as these, not the tonnage, would be assessed.
However, the council's operations director Matt O'Rourke said it was a virtual "doubling" of output to four million tonnes.
Mr Wray said he wasn't opposed to the project per se but more trucks on the road were a recipe for disaster.
"I am concerned about safety. They widened the road but there is still a hazard (a blind spot) near the junction of Red Hills and Ambrose Roads where there is a crest. In fog it is a death trap...There will be an accident, it's as simple as that," he said.
While acknowledging the haul route had been greatly improved, Mr Wray contended that with incremental output increases over the years, Gunlake should no longer argue it couldn't afford rail transport.
"(A rail link with) Holcim is the best option because it will get trucks off local roads and the Hume Highway," he said.
"Gunlake's quarry is 2km from the Holcim loading site and their material could be transported straight up to Camden. I don't know how serious they are about engaging with Holcim but we know there are slots available on the rail timetable."
Mr Wray said production at the facility would only increase, given an estimated 50-year life.
He recently met with Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman about the issue.
Ruling out rail
Mr Kettle said Gunlake had previously assessed 20 different transport options.
"These assessments concluded that rail transport is not viable for the Gunlake quarry and these still apply to the new SSD. They were ultimately accepted by the (state planning department), the NSW Planning Assessment Commission and the NSW Land and Environment Court."
However the Commission did call for a "more strategic" approach to shifting quarry product in the region, with "rail as a starting point."
Mr Kettle said the road safety was uppermost and the company had fully funded and constructed a major upgrade of the primary haul route between the quarry and the Hume Highway.
"(This was done) to a standard far greater than that was required by consent conditions," he said.
"This has resulted in a full AUSTROADS compliant road similar to the concepts used on major highways such as the Newell and Kings Highways and meets AUSTROADS rural road guidelines with a 1000 to 3000 vehicles per day, so even with the truck numbers proposed in the modification and SSD applications, along with existing traffic volumes, the road will be operating at well within its design capacity."
"Importantly, GMC now also has a fully planned and budgeted road maintenance program for the primary and secondary transport routes, funded by section 94 contributions paid by Gunlake."
He expected a further $1 million in road contributions to flow if the SSD was approved.
A community information session on the expansion was held in Marulan on Friday. Mr Kettle said the company had met with and would continue to engage with stakeholders about the project.
Gunlake has already lodged its modification with the Land and Environment Court. It hopes to lodge the SSD in March.
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