The ACT Government is now seeking 60,000 tonnes of clean fill for the next stage of the Canberra Light Rail project – two years after contractors trucked more than 70,000 tonnes of spoil over the border from the ACT into New South Wales.
The Canberra Times has reported that the ACT Government is, according to a spokesperson, “actively seeking opportunities to locally source fill within city limits”. Its intention is to lift and stabilise the national capital’s London Circuit and complete the 1.7km link between Canberra’s civic centre and Commonwealth Park.
The truck movements that are needed to transport the 60,000 tonnes of fill into the city are expected to cause major traffic disruptions due to the construction process.
Some civil contractors have also privately expressed concern that sourcing the quality and quantity of fill for the project may be too difficult.
Clean fill is classified as a virgin excavated natural material. However, Canberra’s most easily accessible fill in locations such as the Pialligo estate contain contaminated construction waste and do not meet the ACT’s Environmental Protection Authority standards. Contractors will also be required to submit a Contamination and Material Management Plan for the importation of material to the construction site.
The ability to freely dump spoil and rubble outside Canberra emerged as a contentious cross-border issue in the first stage of the Canberra Light Rail project.
One of the major rubble sites the contractors utilised is a disused Federal Highway quarry marginally over the border near Sutton, NSW.
It is estimated that 74,000 tonnes of excavated ACT light rail spoil – more than the amount the ACT is now requesting – filled the large, idle quarry to capacity.
The Yass Valley Council’s charges were attractive to the contractors over the cost of dumping the fill in the ACT. The local government only charged application fees, a $3000 erosion control bond and a $0.12 per tonne road maintenance fee. If the fill had been dumped in the ACT, the contractors would have been charged at the ACT dumping rate of $11.65 per tonne – an equivalent of $862,100.
One unnamed source jokingly told The Canberra Times it may be “cheaper to dig the dirt from two years ago out of the Sutton quarry and truck it back into the ACT again”.
Early construction has begun on Phase 2A, with the ACT Government moving multiple underground utilities from their current location on London Circuit, with the intention of aligning them with Constitution Avenue, Vernon Circle, and Edinburgh Avenue.
Major construction on the project is projected to start in 2022, with it estimated to take a further two years to raise the road.
Quarry contacted Transport Canberra for further comment but it did not respond to our questions before deadline.
By Atara Thenabadu