For a long time, walking in Woodford has been a rather fraught affair.
The much-delayed road works rendered the highway treacherous for years.
When the townsfolk wanted a set of traffic lights across the upgraded road, they had to resort to petitions, submissions and a protest march before the Roads and Maritime Service finally agreed.
Now, the final missing link is being addressed. After much lobbying from residents groups, local councillors and former MP, Roza Sage, a raised, separate pedestrian footpath is being built at the upgraded Park Road railway overbridge.
Sydney Trains has just started work on the $750,000 project, which “will improve existing safety features and include a new, designated pedestrian path”, a spokesman said.
Ironically, while the construction work happens, pedestrians will finally be allowed to use the bridge.
Until now, pedestrians had been urged not to use the bridge to cross the railway line. It was built more than 100 years ago and had no separate footpath so anyone trying to get from the south side to the highway had to run the gauntlet of cars and trucks. To discourage such risk-taking, “No pedestrian access” signs were planted on both sides.
But with work starting, the tables have turned and pedestrians get to use it while cars are banned. A new sign from Sydney Trains about the upgrade ensures that “pedestrian access will be maintained” while the work carries on until March 4.
Elizabeth Burgess, from the Woodford branch of the Hazelbrook Association, said residents were “thrilled”.
“We spent about two years in discussions with the RMS trying to get a better outcome there,” she said.
Their main concern was school children from the southern side of the village who had to cross the railway to get to bus stops on the highway.
When the RMS indicated that it would do nothing, the residents upped their campaign, staging a protest on the site in June 2013.
Eventually, a year later, the RMS agreed to the upgrade.
“It really was the community standing up for their right for safe access,” Ms Burgess said.
The upgrade will be jointly conducted by Railcorp/Sydney Trains, which owns the bridge, and RMS.
Cr Romola Hollywood, who lobbied with fellow councillors as well as residents, said reaching it had been a “long saga”.
“It's great to see that our advocacy has finally paid off. Pedestrian access over Park Road Bridge now enables local residents, including school children, to walk safely between north and south Woodford. This is what connecting up communities is all about."