Posted on 08. Feb, 2012 in News

The Baillieu Government must immediately clarify what it is doing to protect the structural integrity of the West Gate Bridge to cope with unprecedented traffic loads and dire warnings the bridge will soon reach its limit, the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Tim Pallas, said today.

Mr Pallas said documents released to the Opposition under Freedom of Information show the Baillieu Government had appeared to ignore significant safety warnings from VicRoads about the structural integrity of the West Gate Bridge.

“The West Gate Bridge is Victoria’s most prized economic and social infrastructure. Thousands of commuters and businesses depend on it every day as a safe crossing over the Maribyrnong River,” Mr Pallas said.

“And yet, 12 months after receiving advice from VicRoads about the bridge’s safety, the Baillieu Government has failed to announce any major plans for the West Gate Bridge.

“Also, they have shunted off for further review Labor’s plans for a second river crossing to take traffic pressure off the West Gate.

“It beggars belief that faced with the West Gate’s structural pressures, ballooning population growth in Melbourne’s West and growing freight volumes from the Port of Melbourne, the Baillieu Government is doing absolutely nothing.”

Mr Pallas said documents released to the Opposition under FOI show VicRoads informed Transport Minister Terry Mulder last February about traffic loads on the West Gate Bridge increasing ‘at a rate beyond expectations’.

A ministerial briefing signed by Mr Mulder on 2 February last year said the bridge ‘was operating with safety margins and probabilities of failure below current desirable internationally accepted standard’.

It said growth in average vehicle weight and traffic volume would continue to ‘exacerbate fatigue crack’ which required ‘timely and regular intervention to ensure that it does not present a threat to the overall structural integrity of the bridge’.

“…It is estimated that average recurrent funding in excess of $10 million (2008/09 values) will be required annually over the next 15 years to ensure the WGB remains in a serviceable and safe condition.”

Mr Pallas said the Baillieu Government must produce a plan for managing growing freight and traffic movements to and from the Western suburbs.

“They must confirm the annual required maintenance spend on the West Gate Bridge of at least $10 million each year will occur,” he said.

“Otherwise, the congestion and structural strain on the West Gate Bridge will become unmanageable.”

Mr Pallas said VicRoads traffic projections show in four years time an extra 18 469 cars and an extra 1,223 trucks will cross the bridge daily, taking 13 000 tonnes and pushing the bridge “to the limit”.

“This follows Opposition revelations last September about the Baillieu Government’s secret plans to consider an extension to the length, size and weight of trucks and removal of the time of day restrictions on large truck movements over the West Gate Bridge.”

Mr Pallas said the Baillieu Government must immediately:

• Proceed with WestLink, Labor’s planned second river crossing to reduce truck and vehicle dependence on the West Gate Bridge;

• Deliver the Truck Action Plan; and

• Progress Labor’s intermodal hub strategy to develop truck to rail exchange points and reduce inner city/port/West Gate Bridge truck dependence.

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