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8 February, 2022

Leaders slam State in wake of range road crash closure

JUST five days after a State Government report concluded that an alternative transport route from the Northern Tablelands to Cairns would not be needed for 30 years, a serious crash on the Kuranda Range Road which closed the route for nine hours last week has sparked more criticism from community and business leaders.

By Robyn Holmes

The notorious road was closed from 1pm until 10.30pm on Wednesday after a semi-trailer overturned on a corner about 3km from the bottom of the range, then it closed again early Thursday morning after a tree fell over and blocked the road. 

Mareeba Chamber of Commerce president Joe Moro said the conclusions made in the government’s access study were “beyond belief” and “totally disappointing”. 

“The government just keeps moving the goal posts and they will never build anything,” he said. 

“The government said we couldn’t have the Kur-World development because the road could not take extra capacity so that development was lost and now they say the road won’t reach capacity until 2050 – you can’t have it both ways, it’s laughable. 

A letter from Mareeba Shire Council to the Minister for Mains Road Mark Bailey, which is published in The Express today, echoes Mr Moro’s statement. 

Mayor Angela Toppin confirmed the council would be making a detailed submission on the strategy. 

“In 2019, a major development (Kur- World) in our Shire was effectively refused by the State on the basis that according to the Department of Transport and Main Roads, the Kuranda Range Road could not handle the increased traffic this development would bring,” the letter reads. 

“In communications from your Director- General at this time, he indicated the Kuranda Range Road would reach capacity between 2029 and 2031 – a far cry from the 30 years this new study states.” 

Mr Moro said that with 9500 vehicles using the range currently, and a growth rate of 3 per cent per annum forecast, the number of vehicles using the road in 10 years’ time could be as many as 20,000 a day. 

But he is also very concerned at the growth in traffic movements on the highway between Kuranda and Mareeba due to the absence of a decoupling pad close to Kuranda. 

“What is worrying is the number of traffic movements from Mareeba to Kuranda because without B-Doubles being able to be used to bring up freight, semi-trailers have to come up the range, go all the way to Mareeba and unhitch, then go back down for another trailer,” he said. 

“What we need is an unhitching pad to be established close to Kuranda on the Kennedy Highway to reduce the number of vehicles using this stretch of the highway.” 

The government’s Northern Tablelands to Cairns Access report does list this as one of the actions it recommends but only rates it as “short-medium” term which, according to the document, could be done sometime in the next 14 years. 

“The unhitching pad should be done as a matter of urgency – it should have been done 10 years ago,” he said. 

United Australia Party candidate for Kennedy Peter Campion has also weighed in on the issue, saying the Queensland Government had for decades failed to address the ongoing shortcomings of road links from Cairns to the Tablelands, Gulf and Peninsula regions. 

“Growth and industry in the Tablelands, Gulf and Peninsula areas are being artificially restricted by the uncertainties offered by the outdated existing road links,” Mr Campion said. 

“All those communities ever see is millions of dollars of their tax money being spent on study after study, but no significant solution to the problems presented by old roads through wet tropical mountains ever eventuates.” 

“I have been campaigning for a new road link on a direct, central alignment since 1999’s Integrated Transport Study for the Kuranda Range,” he said. 

“Simple geometry informs us that the shortest distance between points is a straight line, and with the major population and freight hubs being centred on Mareeba and Atherton, that direct line is the one I have promoted for 23 years.” 

Mr Campion’s proposal is for a seven-kilometre surface road from the Kennedy Highway linking to a seventeen-kilometre, gently sloped tunnel which emerges at Ray Jones Drive. 

Member for Hill Shane Knuth said in light of the State’s unwillingness to act on the Kuranda Range Road, it should hand over the road to the Federal Government. 

“We have a major highway closed 44 times a year with a collapsing bridge,” Mr Knuth said. 

“The Government is telling us they aren't going to do anything for 30 years. Imagine the uproar if the Brisbane airport link was closed 44 times per year. 

“If the State Government isn't going to do anything about a new highway, then hand the Kuranda Range Road over to the Feds.”

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