ACT News


Canberra's alpine roads: ice, snow, and the team keeping them safe and open

Adam Melville's breath creates great clouds of fog in the frosty air as he works.

It's 9am and the temperature hovers around zero degrees as the sun pokes its head through the trees.

Mr Melville has been on call for the past 24 hours to ensure the ACT's alpine roads are kept clear of snow and danger.

There's no phone reception, so the Transport Canberra and City Services staff carry walkie-talkies.

There's a chainsaw and road closure signs in the vehicle and a winch on the front in case they encounter a fallen tree or get into trouble.

The dedicated team of government employees have been out since 6am, often in sub-zero conditions, ensuring the safety of the territory's roads.


Meanwhile in town, Canberrans sip their morning coffee in the warmth of their homes or grumble as they scrape ice off their windscreens.

Road Maintenance manager program delivery Peter Thompson said snow and ice caused "a few issues with the roads" in the frigid months.

"Once we know there's snow around, we activate our guys to get out there, look at the conditions, and make arrangements so we can try and open up access to key locations for members of the public to get access to," he said.

Mr Thompson said the crews keep an eye on five roads - Mount Franklin Road, Bendora Dam Road, Brindabella Road, Corin Road, and Boboyan Road - to ensure the safety of motorists.

However, Mr Thompson said Corin Road and Mount Franklin Road were the two key areas during snowfalls - as Canberra's flock to the alpine areas to experience a snow day.

"It's always our priority to get people up there.

"It's not much fun being up there [early in the morning] but we're up there trying to figure out what we can do with the roads so people can enjoy a snow experience.

"A lot of people try to go up in two-wheel drive cars, so we try top facilitate that, and keep the roads open as much as can, but sometimes we need to restrict access to those roads to only 4wds."

Mr Thompson said snow only caused issues for about two-to-three weeks of the year.

Transport Canberra and City Services has a light-tracked vehicle for clearing snow if there's heavy falls.

He said snow will be compacted and turn to ice, making it harder to remove and the road more dangerous, so it was best to remove snowfall early.

Although, he said the issue was not as great on unsealed roads, where snow recedes far more quickly.

"[Removing snow early] makes it so much safer for any motorists that want to travel along the road later.

"Thats does happen, particularly on Corin Road, our first priority is to get people up to the resort."

Mr Thompson said said TCCS often close the roads at night when temperatures plummet and wind speeds increase - creating icy roads and felling trees burnt out by the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

"If there's any moisture on the road, it freezes, so we try and make sure people can go up and it's safe."

Mr Thompson said it wasn't uncommon for 2WD vehicles to slip off the road and become stuck.

He urged snow chasers to check the TCCS webpage for road condition updates before heading into the mountains.

He said the page was updated two-to-three times a day, depending on the situation.

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