The dangerous road that exposes the merger myth - what will happen under amalgamation?

Many believe it is exactly the issue that demonstrates council amalgamation will leave communities worse off.

For years, those living at the other side of Marlborough Road and the Centenary Drive six-lane highway have tried to explain to the NSW State Government’s Roads and Maritime Services that they needed a crossing to shop at Sydney Markets.

It was almost cruel to imprison them in an area just beyond Sydney’s biggest and best fresh-food market, and then refuse to provide them with an overpass, underground tunnel or safe level crossing.

It is even more bizarre considering there is a tunnel under Centenary Drive, which can only be reached by crossing busy Marlborough Road.

So imagine their rage – and that of Strathfield councilors who have been battling the issue on the municipality’s most dangerous crossing – when the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) came up with a solution: an iron fence to block the residents’ way to the tunnel

The result: many climbed over the fence and ran the gauntlet of the trucks and cars speeding down the road. It would not be long, councillors feared, before the price of fresh fruit and vegetables was blood on the road.

Councillors’ complaints became even more shrill, warning that any accidents would leave blood on the hands of the RMS. Councillors Raj Datta and Daniel Bott were particularly loud.

Cr Datta proposed at July’s council meeting that the fence should be removed and a pedestrian crossing installed.

Then came relief – at the end of July the fence was opened up. There was an almost audible sigh of relief.

The war may not be over, but at least a small battle has been won.

“Today we got in touch with Strathfield Council about our emergency situation; it has been solved pretty fast,” said resident and father of two boys Peter Pillai.

“But if Strathfield is merged with other councils, the chain of communication gets longer and an issue such as this would take months to get solved.”

Just a few weeks ago Mr Pillai, who lives in one of the units near Marlborough Road, appealed in a Council meeting for the RMS to take residents calls seriously for the sake of the safety of residents, especially women and children, who often cross the road to access Sydney Markets.

He handed a petition signed by 70 residents in the Courallie Avenue Precinct to Cr Bott on the day of a Strathfield Council open forum.

The contents of the petition, shared with the Scene, states that Austin Park Tunnel is a key access point for residents in Courallie Avenue and limiting or closing the tunnel is “dangerous and unreasonable”.

They argued that Council should oppose any attempts to close the Austin Park Tunnel and support the residents in seeking proper pedestrian treatment.

They requested a safety audit of the fencing along the eastern side of Austin Park and active community consultations with the residents on proposed options.

Cr Datta had raised a notice of motion requesting Council write to the Minister of Roads, Maritime and Freight asking for the pedestrian safety near Marlborough Road to be reviewed.

TheScenevisited Marlborough Road on a Saturday morning and met many pedestrians who were pleasantly surprised to see the fence gone. Some had spoken with Cr Datta earlier and thanked him and Council for their quick action.

Jonathan Matty said: “When the fence was placed here, people were still crossing the road and that was more dangerous.”

Marlborough Road is in the midst of a six lane highway that connects to Parramatta Road and M4 Western Motorway. Vehicles drive down to Marlborough Road from an over-bridge via Richmond Road. The road is a 60km per hour zone, but often vehicles are speeding because there is no speed camera.

“After 11am, as the traffic peaks, it gets more difficult for people to cross the road. If you take an aerial view of this route, you will see that this is a very big roundabout for people who often take this path to access the tunnel. This roads needs a speed camera and traffic lights,” said Mr Pillai.

The Scenewitnessed many pedestrians with children waiting to cross the road, which is heavily trafficked with cars and trucks. The risk of accidents is high.

So what’s the next step?

“A proper traffic crossing is perhaps the solution to ensure safety of residents here. People’s lives are not cheap and therefore how much money is spent on creating the changes shouldn’t be a concern,” said Cr Datta.

For those living in the area, it is a critical issue. But for an amalgamated council of 430,000 – the population proposed under the State Government’s council merger scheme – what chance do residents have of ever being heard?

The RMS is still discussing what to do next. A spokesman told the Scene: “Roads and Maritime Services installed the fencing on the western side of Marlborough Road next to Austin Park to improve safety by encouraging pedestrians not to cross Marlborough Road to access the nearby tunnel. Roads and Maritime encourages pedestrians to use Richmond Road bridge to access Flemington Station via The Crescent alternatively. 

“Strathfield Council recently removed the pedestrian fence. Roads and Maritime will meet with council in coming weeks to discuss the matter.”


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