To avoid a similar or worse event, Fremantle Port, the Public Transport Authority and Main Roads WA will be scheduling a number of protection works across both the rail bridge and the Fremantle Traffic Bridge.
These include the installation of five concrete ‘dolphins’ in the water on the downstream side of the rail bridge, the reinforcement of the traffic bridge’s timber fender system with steel and the installation of an early warning system for trains travelling on the rail bridge.
Construction work is expected to take up to 12 months beginning in January next year, with all involved aiming to reduce the impact the works have on boat, train and vehicle traffic across and under both bridges.
Despite repeated calls for years to replace the ageing traffic bridge, which was built in 1938, there was no funding allocated for it in the recent 2014-15 budget.
A Main Roads WA spokeswoman said they were ‘very concerned’ about the 2011 events because of the safety implications for people travelling over both bridges.
‘As a result, [we] developed appropriate impact protection measures which will minimise the likelihood of serious damage to the bridge in the event of an errant river vessel impact,’ she said.
‘Main Road’s primary aim is to continue to maintain the structural integrity of the bridge until it is replaced.’
Main Roads will also close the centre thoroughfare channel to accommodate the size of the steel strengthening structures, which would ‘significantly reduce [the channel’s] width’.
Fremantle Ports External Affairs manager Ainslie de Vos said there needed to be methods in place to stop a repeat of the May 2011 incident.
‘Since the incident in which a bunkering vessel made contact with the Fremantle rail bridge, Fremantle Ports has made some operational changes to prevent an event such as this from occurring,’ she said.
‘Fremantle Ports has also provided input to the design of the protective bollards to be installed as a further safety measure in this busy stretch of water.
‘Any contact with either bridge is rare and is generally associated with minor contact from small recreational vessels.’
-For more on local transport and budget issues, see page 3.
How They Will Work
Dolphins: Will act as an impact barrier that will reduce the chances of boats hitting the rail bridge piers by bending on impact and absorbing all the energy generated by a head on collision. (Main Roads)
Steel-Reinforced Timber Fender System: Will increase the bridge’s ability to withstand serious damage in case of a vessel hitting it. (Main Roads)
Early Warning System: Will use vibration sensors to alert trains if there is a possible compromise to the bridge’s integrity because of a vessel impact, forcing the train to stop until it is investigated. (Public Transport Authority)