School bus drivers strike over Gladstone Monto Rd
UPDATE 4.15pm: The Department of Transport and Main Roads has issued a statement on Gladstone-Monto Rd.
"We are aware of a letter from the Monto State High School bus route operator advising parents a section of the route would not be travelled,” the department said.
"We inspected the road this morning and found some isolated sections of potholing due to recent rainfall.
"We have been working with the operator to assess the road's condition and return school bus services to normal as quickly as possible.
"We also inspected Gladstone-Monto Road on April 5 and programmed roadside slashing, delineation works to improve safety on narrow bridges and further grading of the unsealed section between Many Peaks and Kalpowar.
"Works were scheduled to start this week.
"Slashing of all narrow bridge approaches was completed yesterday (May 1).
"Grading works are on track to start tomorrow (May 3).
"We regularly undertake inspections of our road network and carry out works when required.
"Grading of the unsealed section between Many Peaks and Kalpowar was carried out in February this year.
"We generally fully grade unsealed roads twice a year, with provisions for minor maintenance works as needed.”
EARLIER: The bus contractors who transport students between Monto and the Boyne Valley have announced their intention to no longer offer a service between Kalpowar and Many Peaks in protest of the serious state of Gladstone-Monto Rd.
Peter Wilson, who drives the route alongside wife Kaye, said the couple have taken the "drastic” action because they believe the authorities have turned a blind eye to their previous protests.
"The road is the worst I've seen it in 24 years,” Mr Wilson said.
"I'm just about at the end of my tether.
"It's pretty drastic stuff but that's where we are.”
The bus will cease operating past Kalpowar from tomorrow if emergency repair work being conducted today and tomorrow doesn't see a marked improvement.
Mrs Wilson said, although the road was graded 11 weeks ago, it "didn't do much”.
She said the only solution was to fix the road, because if the bus stopped its service it would just mean parents had to make the same trip in their car.
In a letter to students' parents dated May 1 announcing the couple's intentions, Mr Wilson said the road needed to be brought up "to a safe and acceptable standard”.
"We feel that the road is not of safe standard and we have a duty of care to deliver your children to school safely,” he wrote.
"It's very stressful on ourselves, dangerous and hazardous for your children and extremely hard on our vehicle.
"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this action will cause you and hopefully it will only be for a short time, this will depend on the reaction we receive.”
Ubobo's Mark McLachlan, as a concerned citizen, has organised a public meeting for Wednesday, May 8 in Builyan Hall at 6pm to discuss the state of the road.
He said in the past few weeks the road has deteriorated even further with the rain.
Mr McLachlan has been in contact with Member for Callide Colin Boyce, who he said is assisting him in organising an E-Petition.
"That it takes the school kids to bring this to the surface is not good,” he said.
In an email to Mr McLachlan, Mr Boyce's office highlighted a report from the Queensland Audit Office titled Integrated transport planning : report No. 4 for 2017-18 which forecast a $9billion funding shortfall over the next decade for the renewal backlog on the state-controlled road network.
"It is my view that if this is not addressed then it will increase exponentially as time goes by and the road network continues to deteriorate,” Mr Boyce said in a February 14 speech to Parliament.
Mr McLachlan, a timber producer, said it is an "overlooked” fact that the state of the road has serious economic detriments for Monto and the Boyne Valley.
"We want to do business with Monto but access is the killer,” he said.
Monto State High School principal Kylie Cochrane said the school has 11 students that currently travel from the Boyne Valley.
She said the school was in the process of organising alternative education arrangements, which would involve the students attending another school in the Boyne Valley for two days per week, communicating with teachers via email and the internet and being assigned work booklets to work from home the other days.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads has been contacted for comment.
Previously, former mayor of Monto Shire Warren McLachlan had told the Times the section of Gladstone-Monto Rd between Crana Rd and Savilles Rd was a "real concern” for him and he feared it would take a death to spur the Department of Transport and Main Roads into action.