In May, the Gazette reported that the City of Fremantle would be joining with Main Roads, Fremantle Port and the Public Transport Authority to begin a number of projects in January that would strengthen and protect both the Fremantle Rail Bridge and the Traffic Bridge from potentially disastrous impacts from sea vessels.
The works are set to include an impact barrier, steel-reinforced timber fender system on the traffic bridge and an early warning system for trains going over the rail bridge.
The urgency in protecting the bridges came about from the need to avoid the reoccurrence of a May 2011 incident, which saw a barge crash into the rail bridge as a passenger train crossed it, narrowly avoiding a collision with the train but taking out the power supply to the line for two days.
The decision to begin the work in January could have been five months too late, when a storm ripped through the coast on Sunday night and ripped the AAL Fremantle cargo ship off its moors and into the bridge.
The impact snapped one of the masts that support the track’s overhead electrical power system, as well as causing extensive damage to the bridge’s supporting infrastructure, leading to the cancellation of train services from Fremantle to North Fremantle until it is fixed.
Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk, who has been calling for something to be done to improve the bridges since she took the local seat, raised the issue of protection works with Transport Minister Dean Nalder during parliament on Tuesday.
Mr Nalder said the life expectancy of the rail bridge was another 40 years, with the traffic bridge life expectancy at 10 to 15 years.
‘An independent audit from the port authority assessed that the shoal waters there would not allow a ship of this size to crash into the rail bridge; it is something that has occurred that was unexpected,’ he said.
‘In the short term, our focus is to get this rail bridge back up and running again as quickly as possible.’
Ms McGurk said the bridge systems were ‘inadequate and dangerous’ as they currently were.
‘A full investigation is required that examines exactly what occurred and provides a way forward to ensure safety is paramount,’ she said.
A Fremantle Port official said a detailed investigation into last week’s incident was underway and recommendations from that would be considered for the protection works.