The Prince Alfred Bridge (timber road viaduct) was a timber road viaduct which had not operated since 1984 and had not been required for transport since that time.
The timber road viaduct had deteriorated extensively and was in very poor condition, creating a significant public safety risk, which would only increase as it continued to deteriorate.
The NSW Government was also monitoring the Murrumbidgee River water levels, rain predictions and dam water releases, as engineering advice showed a 1-in-5-year flood (over 7.1m on the Gundagai River Gauge) could further damage the bridge and potentially cause downstream damage to public and private property.
Works to remove the timber road viaduct began on Tuesday 2 November 2021. The quick removal of the bridge was necessary to protect the habitat of bats, that begin to breed in the timber structure during December.
To minimise any impacts on bats, boxes were installed in the vicinity of the bridge to provide additional roosting points as an adaptive measure as the bridge is removed.
Work to remove the bridge is expected to be completed before the end of November 2021.
No, the timber road viaduct is the only section of this structure that was removed due to the reasons listed above. The road abutments at both ends of the timber road viaduct, are heritage-listed and will remain in place. The span over the Murrumbidgee River that provides access between Gundagai and South Gundagai is also remaining.
Spans 1 - 67 have been removed from the timber road viaduct, which excludes the spans 21 - 25 which were removed earlier this year over O I Bell Drive.
It was not economically or environmentally feasible to restore the timber road viaduct given the high cost, the requirement for large unsustainable amounts of timber, future ownership and maintenance requirements, and a lack of public need for the disused bridge.
Instead, the NSW Government engaged with the community and sought their ideas for memorial options to celebrate the timber road viaduct. The NSW Government is now considering these ideas and will continue to update the community in the coming months.
The timber road viaduct was in poor condition and continued to deteriorate, creating a public safety risk.
The NSW SES reported on 6 August 2021 that a section of the timber road viaduct had fallen at its southern end. Heavy rain in the area over winter increased the weight of bridge timber due to moisture retention, which is suspected to have caused this section to fail.
There was also further risk of other sections of the timber road viaduct failing, including the potential for significant collapse if there was a flood across the floodplain.
The NSW Government engaged an independent engineering consultant to prepare a comprehensive assessment on the timber road viaduct’s condition, which showed significant structural defects and safety issues.
Based on this advice, the NSW Government concluded that the timber road viaduct must be removed as soon as possible to protect public safety.
Ongoing consultations on the timber road viaduct have occurred through a working group including representatives from Crown Lands, Transport for NSW, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc, the National Trust, Engineers Australia, Heritage NSW and Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The NSW Government completed a Review of Environmental Factors (REF), which examined and considered all matters affecting or likely to affect the environment as a result of the removal of the timber road viaduct.
As a part of the REF, a Bat Management Plan was developed as bats are known to roost and breed in the timber road viaduct. A heritage impact statement, notification and consultation with the community were also carried out as part of the development of the REF.
Boxes were placed on lands adjacent to the bridge to provide additional bat habitat.
The NSW Government conducted community engagement via a survey to gather ideas from the Gundagai community on memorial interpretation options for the timber road viaduct. The survey was available from 24 September until 31 October 2021.
The survey received a total of 139 submissions.
The NSW Government has been working with the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council at all stages of the project to ensure community members have access to information and are kept updated as plans progress.
The timber road viaduct was not listed on the State Heritage Register but was considered to be of local heritage significance.
The operational section of Prince Alfred Bridge over the Murrumbidgee River, as well as the disused rail viaduct, are both State Heritage-listed and are being retained.
Heritage interpretation options for the timber road viaduct will be developed in consultation with the community, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council and other key stakeholders.
We will work with the community to ensure the timber road viaduct is appropriately memorialised for future generations.
The NSW Government has sought ideas from the community through a survey for heritage interpretation options for the timber road viaduct. The survey was open between 24 September and 31 October, 2021, and received a total of 139 submissions.
A business case to seek funding for a heritage interpretation option will be developed as a priority following community and stakeholder feedback.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Crown Lands (Crown Lands) and Transport for NSW are working collaboratively on this project, as the relevant landowners.
Residents with questions or requests regarding the removal of the timber road viaduct are advised to contact Crown Lands for further information on the project at [email protected].
Public safety is our priority, so we have worked quickly to secure necessary planning approvals to dismantle the timber road viaduct.
We worked with the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to inform the community.
In order to keep the community safe, signage has been erected around the viaduct alerting the public to the risks and fencing has been installed to control public access near the viaduct.
Works were undertaken on the timber road viaduct in December 2020 to place screens above O I Bell Drive for safety reasons. A section of the timber road viaduct over O I Bell Drive was removed in April 2021, following a vehicle collision.
More than 460 cubic metres of timber and trestles have been salvaged from the removal of the Prince Alfred Bridge’s timber road viaduct, to support construction of a heritage memorial option. This includes 1 whole timber trestle and 12 half trestles from the timber road viaduct, which have been salvaged for use in future interpretation. These have been transported to the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council’s depot for storage until a future use is determined.