Blowing whistle on Traffic Bridge Safety

Extract from Hansard – State Parliament

ASSEMBLY — Wednesday, 23 May 2012

 MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [7.46 pm]: I welcome the opportunity to comment on the budget. Certainly, some pressing issues have not been addressed in my electorate of Fremantle. Probably the biggest issue is the Fremantle Traffic Bridge and I simply ask: where has all the money gone?

The government now puts the cost of replacing this bridge, if it is to include a separate freight rail bridge and road bridge, at $230 million, yet this amount did not appear in the latest budget papers.

It gets worse, though, with the $14 million that was in the budget papers last year having now disappeared, so we do not even have any money for maintenance for this unsafe traffic bridge. How can this government talk about road safety and yet snatch $14 million in future maintenance for this bridge and provide no allocation for its replacement? 

This investment should be prioritised because we are all well aware that this bridge is unsafe, as detailed in the 2004 engineer’s report. 

Given the findings of this report, the government is playing Russian roulette with the lives of the public who use this bridge every day. Every time I go past the bridge, it is absolutely jam-packed with trucks and commuters. The engineer’s report commissioned in 2004 found that there was a high risk of collapse and that the gas and oil pipelines on the bridge would rupture, leading to gas jet fires and oil pool fires on the river.

The recent dredging of the river lowered the riverbed by more than three metres and left the main support pylons for the bridge only partially embedded. This has made the bridge extremely susceptible to collapse in the event that a vessel collides with a pylon, with the potential, as stated in the report, for 200 fatalities.

I notice that the minister today talked about improving the structure of the rail bridge; however, that is only one side of the bridge. If a vessel comes at the bridge from the other side – we know that it takes just one drunk driver to be out of control of a boat – and hits one of those wooden pylons, then, according to the engineer’s report, the whole bridge will collapse. That is a risk that we should not be taking.