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19 January, 2021

Is this bridge safe?

The Barron River Bridge has been down to one lane since early November and now the safety of the Barron River Bridge is being called into question after the Minister for Transport and Main Roads refused to answer one question. ‘Is the bridge safe’?

By Phil Brandel

Residents are asking, is the Barron River Bridge safe?

As the single lane closure of the Barron River Bridge increases traffic congestion on the Kennedy Highway in Kuranda, one question that locals keep asking is 'is the bridge safe?'

When The Expressasked Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey directly if he could guarantee that the Barron River Bridge was safe, he chose not to answer.  

While Minister Bailey and Transport and Main Roads (TMR) play politics and avoid questions, calls for a new road linking Mareeba with Cairns are increasing in volume.

Concerned truck drivers and transport operators joined together with Kennedy MP Bob Katter on Wednesday, January 13 in Kuranda to publicly ask Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey why the bridge is down to one lane and when will it be reopened?

Since early November the bridge has been operating as a single lane as well as a 50.5 tonne limit.

Several people have spotted signs that have either been covered up or hidden that have a 25 tonne limit.

Mr Katter said he had been trying for weeks to get something out of the government about what issues TMR are facing with the bridge. “I put a demand out they that give a full account of the situation with the bridge,” he said.

“If it’s dangerous then why are any cars at all going across? If it’s not dangerous then why don’t we have two lanes?”

“It’s about time TMR came clean and told us what they are doing.”

During the meeting, Mr Katter said the Kuranda Range was one of the most beautiful roads in Australia. “We want this kept as a tourist highway, we don’t want this road to be used as a transport highway.”

Mr Katter said that an alternative route that runs from Davies Creek to Cairns was pointed out to the government over thirty years ago and since then nothing had been done.

“We can either spend the money on fixing up one bridge, or we can get serious and build a dual lane highway from Mareeba to Cairns,” Mr Katter said.

“Currently farmers and producers from the cape have to drive to Charters Towers to get to the coast.”

The Kennedy MP also took aim at state MP for Barron Craig Crawford and MP for Cook Cynthia Lui for staying silent on the issue.

“Where are the two-state members on this issue? One represents Kuranda and the other represents Mareeba and the cape,” he said.

“People from the cape need to come through Mareeba to get to Cairns, so where is the local Member on this issue?

“Has anyone heard from them since the election?”

Owner of Tuxworth and Woods Carriers, Simon Tuxworth claimed that by not building a new road it was holding back the development of North Queensland.

“If we built this road it would mean a boom for North Queensland, I don’t know what the government is waiting for,” he said.

“It would mean more freight and open up the Tablelands as a food bowl, it’s been on the agenda for decades but nothing has been done.

“They aren’t going to fix the bridge properly it will just be a band-aid, so we need the other road built.

Lamont Transport owner William Lamont said if there was traffic moving all the time, it would actually be less weight on the bridge.

“Due to stop and go you end up with three trucks at one time on the bridge.”

On January 13, a spokesperson from TMR told The Express on behalf of the Minster. “We are carrying out inspections on the Barron River Bridge, near Kuranda,” they said.

 “The bridge has been reduced to one lane and we currently have no plans to change the load limit at this time.

 “We will receive a report in late January 2021, which will provide recommendations on the best way forward, including a likely timeframe for the single-lane closure.

 “We thank motorists and residents for their patience and will provide further updates as more information becomes available.”

Mareeba Shire Council mayor Angela Toppin added “While it is a Main Roads issue, Council is concerned that if the bridge is not operating at full capacity, it will have major implications on the local community,” Cr Toppin said.

"The Kennedy Highway is a vital strategic conduit and we look forward to hearing from TMR regarding a way forward.”

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