General News

3 April, 2024

Minister rejects push for new range road

MINISTER for Transport Bart Mellish has rejected any suggestion that an alternative road to the Kuranda Range Road is needed before 2051 despite landslides and fallen trees continuing to cause closures.

Transport and Main Roads crew abseiling off the side of an excavator in the middle of the night on the Kuranda Range Road as they try to repair December’s damage.
Transport and Main Roads crew abseiling off the side of an excavator in the middle of the night on the Kuranda Range Road as they try to repair December’s damage.

Asked to comment on The Express Yourself community survey, which showed 92% of respondents want an alternative road to the coast urgently or within five years, the Minister cited the 2021 Cairns Northern Tablelands Access Strategy’s finding that an alternative road to the coast was not needed for 30 years.

“In early 2022, my department released an extensive study on Kuranda Range Road that found the route was not operating at capacity, and that other issues including network resilience, travel reliability and freight access are the main challenges,” he said in a statement.

“These are critical issues this government is committed to improving.”

In the wake of the significant damage sustained to the road during the December extreme weather event following Cyclone Jasper, The Express asked Mr Mellish whether this would cause him to reconsider the 2021 findings. But his office did not respond directly to this question.

The Express survey also revealed that since the damage in December, 92% of the 1045 respondents feel unsafe driving the range road during rainfall or at night. Landslides and fallen trees, as well as rocks hitting cars have been cited by commuters in the past few weeks.

The range road has been subject of closures every night from 9pm-4am recently and commuters can expect continual disruptions while the extensive damage is being repaired.

TMR has advised it is working with a contractor to minimise the impacts for road users as much as possible and “investigating which works can be safely carried without completely closing the road at night” but admitted full night closures would still be required for certain types of work.

Mr Mellish says the State and Federal Governments have already committed millions of dollars towards upgrades for the range road and will continue to work with the Commonwealth to “develop a full scope of works along Kuranda Range Road and kickstart these upgrades as soon as possible”.

“To support safety and resilience along Kuranda Range Road, the Albanese and Miles governments have committed $262.5 million for upgrades on Kuranda Range Road, with the State Government contributing 20 per cent of that total,” he said.

“Potential upgrades may include protective barriers and guardrails, shoulder widening, wide centre line treatments, Intelligent Transport Systems, vegetation management and slope stability treatments at strategic locations.”.

The Express also asked the Minister if he was aware of the continued push by freight companies, the agricultural industry and the Mareeba Chamber of Commerce for a decoupling pad near Koah so trucks do not have to travel back and forth from Cairns to Mareeba, dropping off one trailer to return and pick up another.

“We continue to work closely with the freight industry, and my department is aware of requests for a heavy vehicle decoupling pad at Koah and this site is included in TMR’s Tablelands Heavy Vehicle Management Strategy for further consideration,” he said.


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