THE Arthurs Seat chairlift was removed on Wednesday last week and now lies in a Dromana storage yard awaiting transport to Adelaide.
Its removal brings to an end a long and sometimes bitter battle between Richard Hudson, who has owned the chairlift for more than 30 years, and the state government’s WorkSafe Authority and Parks Victoria.
The chairlift troubles started on 3 January 2003 when one of eight pylons collapsed, sending about a dozen people to hospital and stranding many of the 50 people aboard, some for up to six hours.
A WorkSafe investigation found the collapse was caused by corrosion and fatigue in two anchor bolts at the pylon base. Mr Hudson was ordered to make repairs so he designed and built eight new pylons as well as replacing running gear and installing a new cable.
The incident made international news and led WorkSafe to inspect all chairlifts in Victoria, most of which are in the snowfields.
The chairlift reopened on 7 January 2004 but in March an elderly woman’s legs were crushed when her chair slid down the cable and collided with one in front. WorkSafe again closed the ride.
Mr Hudson said during a subsequent court case that the chairlift had been sabotaged. He was fined $110,000 in the County Court.
The chairlift was allowed to reopen in October 2004 and operated without incident until 16 May 2006 when a cable malfunction stranded people. No one was injured but WorkSafe closed it again and it has never reopened.
Mr Hudson has been battling WorkSafe imposing Canadian chairlift technical regulations, which he and experts say do not suit the design of the Arthurs Seat chairlift, as well as Parks Victoria over the lease.
Last Wednesday, the winding road up Arthurs Seat was closed between 9.30am and 3.30pm to enable Mr Hudson and his team to remove the 6.5-tonne cable as well as eight pylons, several of which are close to the winding road.
The cable was fitted with attachments that allowed it to be dragged along the ground once it had been lifted off pulleys. It was cut at pylon No 4 about halfway up the 950-metre chairlift and rolled onto giant spools.
Pylons closest to the road were removed first as VicRoads wanted minimum road closure.
Mr Hudson said the 11-metre tall pylons weighed just over a tonne each.
“Most pylons will be lifted with a conventional crane but pylon No 2 near the top will be removed using a crawler crane that will be dragged up the 25-degree slope by a one-tonne ute attached to a winching truck,” Mr Hudson told The News on Tuesday.
He was hoping Thursday would not be needed as rain had been predicted.
Mr Hudson said the chairlift would be set up in the Adelaide Hills.
The chairlift was built in 1960 by Czech-born engineer Dr Vladimir Hajek, who also built Victoria’s first chairlift at Falls Creek.
His design was used in Launceston Gorge, Hobart, Brisbane Showgrounds, Adelaide Showgrounds, Perth, Adelaide, Thredbo, Sydney and Orange in NSW. Most of these lifts are still operating.
The Arthurs Seat lift was the oldest, longest and most famous in Victoria. At 950 metres long, it had 74 chairs and carried 222 passengers an hour on open, two-seat chairs.