Bulli Pass (Princes Highway) closure - rock fall protection barrier fencing

Roads and Maritime Services is funding a $5 million project to install 1.1 kilometres of safety fencing to prevent rock falls and improve safety for motorists. Once installed, this will be the longest fence of its kind in Australia.

Updates and announcements

Bulli Pass to reopen three days earlier after work complete

The first stage of work on Bulli Pass is almost complete and the road will be opened three days ahead of schedule.

Bulli Pass will now be reopened at 3pm on Friday 2 December, just in time for the first weekend of summer.

During the first stage of safety improvements, fencing has been installed in the highest risk sections. Once fully installed, this will be the longest fence of its kind in Australia.

Since 4 October there have been 447 rock anchors installed, 86 concrete pads and 86 posts installed, around 600 metres of netting and more than 180 square metres of rock netting in gullies.

We thank the community for your patience while work was carried out.

The community will be updated about the second closure to complete the rock fall fence installation in early 2017.

Watch a short video showing crews at work and our progress installing rock fall protection fencing on Bulli Pass during October 2016.

Project background

Bulli Pass has a history of slip and rock fall events. A major slip in 2008 required slope stabilisation works with the road being closed for seven weeks. Following several events, including a serious rock fall that landed on a vehicle in 2015, there have been extensive investigations into the upslope section of Bulli Pass.

Roads and Maritime has determined that rock fall protection barrier fencing is required in several locations along Bulli Pass and will continue to investigate and assess the need for further safety measures.

Project plans

To ensure the long term safety and stability of Bulli Pass, Roads and Maritime is planning to install 1.1 kilometres of rock fall protection barrier fencing from the M1 Princes Motorway to the hairpin bend in two stages. During the first stage, fencing will be installed in the highest risk sections.

An additional two month road closure is planned for late April to late June 2017 to install remaining fencing. We will update the community about this closure in early 2017.

Once installed, this will be the longest fence of its kind in Australia.

By December 2016:

  • 600 metres of new rock fall protection barrier fencing will be installed on highest priority upslope sections
  • Vegetation will be selectively removed to accommodate the fencing
  • Further investigations will be carried out on the downslope section during the road closure, to assess the need for retaining walls or other safety measures.

During 2017:

  • Community will be updated in early 2017 on the investigations carried out during the first closure and be advised about the timeframe for any further works
  • Additional 500 metres of rock fall protection barrier fencing will be installed during a second two month closure, currently expected to take place from late April to late June 2017
  • Barriers will be installed in major gullies to collect debris.

Frequently asked questions

  • We thank the community for providing feedback on the planned closure. This information has been used to plan details of the closure to help minimise the impact on both motorists and the local community.

    Most responses raised the following issues:

    • The length of the closure
    • Feasibility of one lane of traffic being open, or road access in peak hours
    • Concerns for safety due to rock falls on the road
    • Concerns for congestion and road safety impacts on the M1 and Lawrence Hargrave Drive
    • Inconvenience to road users and local community
    • Requests for additional train services.

    Community feedback was carefully considered in preparing detailed emergency management and traffic management plans during the closure.  These plans will help us to ensure that the surrounding road network works as safely and efficiently as possible and that the impact on journey times is minimised.

    Other options to complete the work were considered in detail and were not possible due to safety reasons or the ability to complete the essential work in a timely manner. The two stage closure is the safest option to complete this essential work. For more information see other frequently asked questions.

    We appreciate your patience while we carry out this essential work.

  • There have been a number of slips and rock falls at the site which had the potential to cause serious injuries to road users. This includes a major slip in 2008 which required slope stabilisation works with the road being closed for seven weeks, and a serious rock fall which landed on a vehicle in 2015.

    Installing a rock fall protection barrier fence and carrying out further investigations is an important part of the long-term management of Bulli Pass.

    Once installed, this will be the longest fence of its kind in Australia.

    The fence will be 3.5 metres high with a total length of 1.1 kilometres.

  • The fence is being installed on the escarpment, which can only be accessed on foot or by using cranes and other lifting machinery from the road. Heavy posts (200 kilograms each) and fencing will need to be lifted carefully into place from the road, drilled and installed without damaging the surrounding rainforest canopy.
  • It is essential to ensure the safety of all road users and workers while this work is carried out.

    The work involves using large machinery and drilling equipment which leaves insufficient room for vehicles to pass safely. There is also an increased risk of rocks falling while the barrier fence is installed.

    Road workers will be working day and night shifts, seven days a week to ensure that the work is completed as quickly as possible.

  • A number of options were analysed. The program of two two-month closures provides the best outcome for workers and road users. Benefits of this closure program include:

    • Maximises the safety outcome for road users by eliminating risk of rocks falling while the work is carried out
    • Removes safety conflicts between workers and live traffic
    • Ensures the road will be reopened on Monday 5 December 2016, prior to the start of school holidays
    • Ensures that the highest risk section of fencing is installed as soon as possible to prevent potential rock falls
    • Road can be reopened for key events including the arrival in Port Kembla of the Radiance of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship and the MS Sydney to the Gong cycle event
    • The two stage closure means that motorists, residents and local businesses will be less impacted over the summer tourist season and public holidays. The impact of the closure on traffic during the second week of October school holidays is expected to be minimal. The planned road closure in 2017 will avoid public holidays and school holidays.
  • Options considered include:

    • Working with one lane open. This option was considered unsafe as some of the equipment is so large that it covers the entire width of the road. It also carries an increased safety risk of rocks falling on the road without protection while work is carried out
    • Opening and closing the road for peak hour traffic. This option was problematic as some machinery can take 4-6 hours to set up and pack down which would not allow enough time for work activities to be completed. There would also be a high risk that the road could not be reopened after each shift due to risk of rock falls.
    • Working only at night. There are some key activities which need to be carried out in daylight for worker safety which means this option is unsuitable
    • One long closure for about four months. This option would cause significant impacts to road users, local businesses and residents, particularly during holiday periods.

    A two stage closure with a break for the summer and tourist season is considered to be the safest and most efficient way to install the fence. We will coordinate with emergency services to ensure there are appropriate alternative measures in place.

  • Detours will be in place via Memorial Drive and the M1 Princes Motorway, or via Lawrence Hargrave Drive and the M1.

    Motorists should plan their journey and allow extra travel time. Traffic volumes on the M1 at Mount Ousley and Lawrence Hargrave Drive will be higher than usual, motorists should expect delays and where possible travel outside of peak periods. 

    For the assistance of road users, detour maps and maps showing recommended routes on the M1 and Memorial Drive at North Wollongong are available.

    Portable electronic messaging boards will display information to motorists about the closure including dates and detour routes.

    Heavy vehicles over 19 metres or 50.5 tonnes should use the M1 as normal.

  • Yes. Local traffic will be allowed from Lawrence Hargrave Drive up to the hairpin bend.
  • We will update the community in early 2017 about the second closure, after planning work and investigations have been carried out.
  • We are consulting with local residents and businesses, Wollongong City Council, Wollongong Tourism, NSW Emergency Services, Sydney Trains and Port Kembla Port Corporation about this closure.
  • Detailed plans for traffic and emergency management of the detour routes during the closure have been prepared. These plans will help to ensure that road safety and journey times on the detour routes are prioritised during the closure period.

    The plans include:

    • Clearways – motorists will be reminded that clearways are in place at some locations on the detour routes. Tow trucks will be on standby to remove vehicles not observing clearways during peak hours
    • Traffic lights – will be closely monitored and adjusted if required to reduce congestion
    • Key intersections on the road network have been identified and traffic controllers will be on standby to help keep traffic flowing and manage safety if required
    • Recommended routes (shown on maps and electronic signage) have been prepared for detour routes around North Wollongong to help manage congestion, particularly during peak times
    • Emergency management plans have been prepared to ensure that incidents on the M1, Memorial Drive and Lawrence Hargrave Drive can be cleared as quickly as possible. Emergency services are aware of the closure and crews including tow trucks will be on standby to resolve incidents as quickly as possible
    • No routine maintenance work will take place on the detour routes during the closure to help minimise the impact on journey times
    • We are working with the Mount Ousley heavy vehicle rest area upgrade project team to ensure that this work will not impact peak hour traffic during the Bulli Pass closure. Where possible, work that includes lane closures or other traffic impacts will be completed at night outside peak times.
  • Roads and Maritime has been gathering data about traffic movement at various locations including Lawrence Hargrave Drive through Thirroul for analysis in the preparation of the Thirroul to Unanderra Corridor Strategy. During the closure we will continue to monitor traffic volumes and the timing of traffic signals along the detour routes.

    Motorists are reminded that a 50km/h speed zone is in place along most of Lawrence Hargrave Drive, with 40km/h school zones also located along the road.

  • We are currently consulting with Sydney Trains and we will update the community with any changes to services.
  • We have been consulting with cyclist groups on managing traffic on Lawrence Hargrave Drive which is the detour route for cyclists.

    Cyclists should expect increased traffic volumes, especially during peak times. There are alternate roads adjacent to Lawrence Hargrave Drive between Thirroul and Wombarra which cyclists could also use.

    We will be monitoring traffic volumes along Lawrence Hargrave Drive during the closure.

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