Welcome to this week’s editorial, Yesterday’s headline was Batemans Bay bridge stuck UP for over an hour From the perspective of the community what they see is the bridge going up, getting stuck and being an absolute pain in the butt to everyone until it is fixed. Yesterday saw traffic queued for kilometres with no=one knowing when the bridge might re-open. Live traffic advised everyone to take a little detour via Cooma, Queanbeyan and Braidwood to skirt the problem and locals all knew that Runnyford Bridge was closed however that came as a surprise to travellers hearing of the bridge being stuck up and setting their GPS for an alternate route to or from Canberra. There is justifiable frustration and disquiet in the community and also a very strong distrust of the bridge and its capacity to work. The community is showing its displeasure at what they see as the cause of the bridge being stuck in that it raises to let the local tourist ferry pass. So by default rather than blame the bridge they blame the ferry. If the ferry didn’t operate and if no-one requested the bridge to go up and down then there wouldn’t be a problem. But there is a problem and as a result of the bridge being sixty years old, having some concrete cancer in a pylon, costing $1 million a year to maintain and getting stuck it has been given notice that it will now be replaced. But why is the bridge getting stuck. No one seems to be publicly saying so the Beagle will tell what it understands to be. Back in days of old the bridge was opened and shut on demand by a bloke. The bloke climbed up into the Bridge House and then turned on the traffic lights, watched the traffic clear off the deck, eyeballed the pedestrians to make sure they were off and then raised the bridge. Simple. If it was too windy the bloke said “Nup, too windy”. But that had to change. Along comes computers. The computer still needs a bloke to press the go button but it basically does the rest. But the computer isn’t so smart. It runs the traffic lights to stop traffic and then it closes the pedestrian gate but doesn’t eyeball the mum and pram still on the bridge. Fortunately the bloke saw them in time. Next the computer program looks at its wind readout and says OK while the bloke knows that wind affects different faces of the bridge .. Differently. And when it does it can cause the structure to twist. Computer says lift where as the bloke would say “Nup, too windy”. So yesterday up goes the bridge. It was windy but up it went anyway. There are brand new sensors on the bridge—one in each corner so that when they arrive at the top they all trigger everything is OK and life is good. But not yesterday. The bridge had a twist that a bloke in the old days would say “Yep, that’s normal… but the computer doesn’t know about flexibility—if only three sensors detect then FAIL< FAIL< FAIL and stay up until fixed. The big problem we have is that RMS are spread very thin on the ground and in reality no one seems to know who is in charge of the bridge because you have mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, riggers, computer software developers all spread from Newcastle to Eden and when it fails, by rights, someone in “authority” has to attend to fix the problem.Meantime the community has to wait. Fortunately, as we understand it yesterday was saved by common sense with a bloke who knows the bridge adjusting something that told the computer it was all OK and down came the bridge again.So because they decided to make it a smart bridge they have introduced a major consequence that has a higher probability of failure. The system has become over complicated and impractical and sadly all too complex. Yes, they all say it will all be much better when there is a new bridge that doesn't go up and down and every time it does stay UP no doubt the ferry will be blamed for existing and having the audacity to want to get through as is the water users right but hopefully the community will now think about the computer up in the bridge house with its IF_THEN_ELSE logic that has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and still requires a bloke to push the go button. So if you are planning on writing to anyone write to the local member and ask him to return the failed automatic system to manual where a bloke, with years of experience can work out when to open the bridge and possibly have enough clues to be able to fix it if it fails. The RMS have advised they plan a night of testing and training next week to ensure the reliable operation of the bridge opening system and to train the bridge operators. This is to ensure any incidents experienced with the lift system can be quickly fixed, reducing delays for motorists and marine traffic. To minimise the impact on motorists, work will be carried out between 7pm and 5am. What might have to be discussed first is exactly what caused the bridge to be stuck and how many sensors should be active and what mechanisms they have to overrule the computer with a bloke who knows what he is doing. There might now be more caution applied to opening the bridge at all with the uncertainty of it becoming stuck and more concerning REMAINING STUCK. Until next, lei
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