New underpass to provide access to schools, hospitals for bikes

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The tunnel underneath the rail line will connect cycling paths north of the tracks to James Sheahan and Orange Christian School. Photo: SUPPLIED.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The tunnel underneath the rail line will connect cycling paths north of the tracks to James Sheahan and Orange Christian School. Photo: SUPPLIED.

Students from James Sheahan Catholic High School and Orange Christian School will be the major beneficiaries of the latest piece of Orange’s walking and cycling infrastructure, which was finished on Friday. 

The construction of a $600,000 rail under-pass tunnel under the Main Western Rail Line was completed on Friday afternoon, after crews worked around the clock since Wednesday when the railway lines were closed.

The 14 metre tunnel will connect paths that go to the bottom of Hill Street to a new path under construction which will finish at Sundew Circuit via an easement through James Sheahan property.

It is a key link in the Southern Link Cycleway, which is planned to run from the new hospital precinct and Shiralee Village to central Orange.

Orange Cycle and Triathlon Club president Mitch Bland said the tunnel would be a “fantastic” addition to Orange’s cycling routes. 

Orange Cycle and Triathlon Club president Mitch Bland said the tunnel would be a “fantastic” addition to Orange’s cycling routes. 

“Getting from north Orange to the hospitals and schools without going along Piesley Street or Anson Street will be a fantastic benefit,” he said.

“I don’t know if it will help congestion during the school rush, but studies show off-road infrastructure – not just bike lanes but separate from the road – substantially increase cycle commuting in Sydney and Europe.”

Mr Bland said his 12-year-old son would be one of those making use of the tunnel, as he hadn’t allowed his son to ride to school by crossing the train tracks along Anson Street.

“No way we would have allowed him to ride on such a busy road,” he said.

James Sheahan Catholic High School business manager Andrew Kent said the school saw the work as a “great opportunity”. 

“It was a council initiative and they reached out to us …. it was an initiative we jumped on,” he said.

He said 30 spaces for students to store bikes would be added in the school as a result of the tunnel.

While a number of students do currently ride to school, Mr Kent said the school didn’t have numbers on how many did so, and thus how many more students would take up walking or riding as a result. 

“Not just James Sheahan getting benefit … we wanted to demonstrate we were part and parcel of the community,” he said. 

While the track will go through school property, Mr Kent said council would install fences along the path. 

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