Gundagai historic bridges
Transport for NSW is working with Crown Lands to acknowledge the historical significance of the Prince Alfred Bridge (timber road viaduct).
Sep 2022 - Safety improvements on timber rail viaduct
Transport for NSW is planning to carry out maintenance and safety improvement work to the timber rail viaduct in Gundagai. This work will be delivered as a priority.
Work will be carried out on sections of the viaduct along OI Bell Drive and Middleton Drive to improve safety for transport customers.
Recent heavy rainfall and flooding has caused sections of the historic bridge to deteriorate.
The work will reduce the risk of falling debris and allow vehicles and pedestrians to safely travel under the bridge.
Traffic changes along OI Bell Drive will be in place for the duration of the work.
A stop sign at either side of the underpass on OI Bell Drive has been installed with other signage advising transport customers of potential falling debris.
Transport is working quickly, and in consultation with Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council, to carry out this work.
We will keep the community updated on future work and planning for the bridge.
The Prince Alfred Bridge was built in 1867 and was the first major bridge crossing over the Murrumbidgee River. The southern end of the bridge remains in service today, while a 715-metre section to the north (timber road viaduct) has been closed to traffic since 1984. These spans were constructed in 1896, and have been a longstanding historical landmark at Gundagai, representing a bygone era and a glimpse into earlier engineering solutions.
Transport and Crown Lands are working together with Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to deliver a whole-of-government approach to achieve the best outcome for the community.
The timber road viaduct (highlighted above in pink) will be removed as part of this project. The historic bridge has deteriorated extensively and is in very poor condition, creating a significant risk to public safety and the environment. The NSW Government is working quickly to progress this project while monitoring the water levels of the Murrumbidgee River, as a flood event in the area is expected to cause further damage to the bridge.
Breakdown of project stages
Removal of timber road viaduct across the flood plain
‘Have Your Say’ community consultation for feedback on how to commemorate the bridge
Exploring future plans for the rail viaduct as part of Transport’s timber truss rail bridge strategy, currently under development
Status of the existing bridge
The existing timber road viaduct structure is in a dilapidated condition and beyond repair. The purpose of this project is to develop and deliver the viaduct management action plan in consultation with key stakeholders and the community of Gundagai. Due to the risk of collapse, timber spans over the local road, Ol Bell Drive, were removed in March 2021. This action was necessary to remove the risk to the public.
Safety is our priority
The Gundagai SES reported on 6 August 2021 that a section of the bridge 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 is further risk of other sections of the bridge also failing, including the potential for significant collapse if there is a flood across the floodplain. Fencing has been erected in order to protect the community.
Work completed so far
Crown Lands has carried out work on the OI Bell Drive spans of the timber road viaduct, after routine engineering assessments identified deterioration due to recent heavy rainfall and vehicle impact.
Consultation has occurred through a working group including representatives from Crown Lands, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, Gundagai Heritage Bridges Inc, National Trust, Engineers Australia and Heritage NSW (Department of Premier and Cabinet).
Residents in the vicinity of the bridge have been advised about work.
The Gundagai historic bridges project will:
- improve safety
- reduce environmental impacts.
Built in 1902, the Gundagai Howe timber rail bridge sits next to the road bridge, and is an impressive 819.4 metres long. This bridge serviced the Tumut area for 82 years and is listed on the state heritage register. The non-operational Howe timber truss rail bridge is also an important issue for the local community and key stakeholders to discuss in the coming months. The road and rail bridges are important heritage features in the landscape and the lives of local residents. We will reach out to the community soon to discuss future plans for the rail viaduct.
What happens next?
We are currently in the early planning stage. The project team plan to start removing the timber road viaduct from November 2021. The NSW Government will reach out to the Gundagai community for guidance on how they would like to memorialise the bridge and its history. All of the suggestions that we receive will then be considered in future plans for the landmark location.
Consultation with the community is an important part of this project’s development. The NSW Government will be seeking feedback in October 2021 to understand how Gundagai residents would like to commemorate the bridge. We understand one of the many benefits of this project is the opportunity to deliver a place for future generations to connect with and understand the historical significance of the bridge. The project team will reach out to local residents and businesses to seek guidance on future plans to celebrate Prince Alfred Bridge.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Why is the Prince Alfred Bridge (Gundagai Road Bridge) being removed?
The Prince Alfred Bridge (timber road viaduct) is a timber road viaduct which has not operated since 1984 and is no longer used for transport.
The timber road viaduct has deteriorated extensively and is in very poor condition, creating a significant public safety risk, which will only increase as it continues to deteriorate.
The NSW Government is monitoring the Murrumbidgee River water levels, rain predictions and dam water releases as engineering advice shows a major 1-in-5-year flood (over 7.1m on the Gundagai River Gauge) could further damage the bridge and potentially cause downstream damage to other infrastructure.
- Why can’t the timber road viaduct be replaced or fixed?
It is not economically or environmentally feasible to restore the timber road viaduct given the high cost, the requirement for large unsustainable amounts of timber, maintenance requirements, and a lack of Transport need for the disused bridge.
Instead, the NSW Government will engage with the community on what they believe to be potential memorial options for the timber road viaduct.
- What has happened to the timber road viaduct to make this so urgent?
The timber road viaduct is in poor condition and continues to deteriorate, creating a public safety risk.
The Gundagai 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 is further risk of other sections of the timber road viaduct also failing, including the potential for significant collapse if there is a flood across the floodplain.
- Were any experts consulted before this decision was made?
The NSW Government engaged an independent engineering consultant to prepare a comprehensive report on the timber road viaduct’s condition, which showed significant structural defects and safety issues.
Based on this advice, the NSW Government has 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 Transport for NSW, Crown Lands, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc, the National Trust, Engineers Australia, and Heritage NSW (Department of Premier and Cabinet).
- What actions are you taking to protect the environment and animal welfare?
The NSW Government will carry out a Review of Environmental Factors (REF), which will examine and take into account all matters affecting or likely to affect the environment by the proposed removal of the timber road viaduct.
As a part of the REF, a Bat Management Plan will be developed as bats are known to roost and breed in the timber road viaduct throughout different seasons. A heritage impact statement, notification and consultation with the community will also be carried out as part of the development of the REF.
- When will the timber road viaduct be removed?
The timber road viaduct has deteriorated extensively in recent times and is in very poor condition, creating public safety risk which will only increase as it continues to deteriorate.
The timber road viaduct must be removed urgently as its poor condition makes it vulnerable to further collapse, particularly following heavy rain events, or in the event of a flood.
Due to the safety threat the timber road viaduct poses, we will start to dismantle it in November 2021.
- Will the Gundagai-Cootamundra community be consulted on the bridge?
The NSW Government will conduct a ‘Have Your Say’ four-week consultation in late 2021 to gather feedback and guidance from the Gundagai community on how they would like to celebrate the history of the bridge.
Transport for NSW and Crown Lands are also 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.
- Is the timber road viaduct listed on the State Heritage Register?
The timber road viaduct which is being removed is not listed on the State Heritage Register but is 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.
- Will the timber road viaduct be replaced?
The NSW Government is planning to seek feedback in late 2021 on how we can memorialise the bridge.
- Who is managing the project?
Crown Lands and Transport for NSW are working collaboratively on this project, as the relevant landowners.
Community residents with questions or requests are advised to contact Crown Lands for further information on the project.
- Mail: DPIE Crown Lands, PO Box 2185, Dangar NSW 2309
- What is being done to protect public safety?
Public safety is our priority, so we are moving quickly to secure necessary planning approvals to dismantle the timber road viaduct.
We are working with the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to inform the community of risks and next steps.
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.
A section of the viaduct over OI Bell Drive was removed in late 2020 to allow for safe passage along this road under the viaduct.
- What does the project team plan to do with the timber and other materials once dismantled?
Due to the poor condition of the timber and potential contamination, there is unlikely to be material available for reuse or recycling. However, if any usable material is identified it will be stored for potential future use. Waste material from the timber road viaduct will be transported to the nearest waste facility based on contamination levels.
For further information about this project, please contact:
Mail: DPIE Crown Lands, PO Box 2185, Dangar NSW 2309