Industry Issues, Roadworks, Transport Features

“Popular Option” – QTA discusses the Second Bruce project

The latest Queensland transport infrastructure project, dubbed the ‘Second Bruce’, is encouraging many opinions throughout the state’s trucking network

It’s a project that’s been in the pipeline for close to four years. Now, a route that could ease pressure on the busy Bruce Highway is about to become a reality following a recent announcement by the Queensland government that early works had officially begun on its new Inland Freight Route. 

Dubbed the Second BruceQueensland Transport and Main Roads (TMR) minister Mark Bailey says that the route will take trucks off the Bruce Highway as well as ensure a strong supply chain and drive regional economic growth. Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) CEO Gary Mahon says that when opened, the Inland Freight Route will become a popular option among truckies.  

We’ve had further terrific support from the mayors all the way up that corridor and we’ve now had the commitment for works to get underway, which will be appearing in the next matter of weeks,” Mahon told ATN. 

In total, $200 million has been allocated to the project. Mahon says that across the next seven years, the QTA expects to see a rolling program to bring the road up to scratch to run multicombination trucks on it. 

Mahon says that around $109 million has been spent on the early works and is kickstarted by upgrades on the north section of the Dawson River that will widen an existing bridgeon the Carnarvon Highway from 7.4 to 10.3 metres. Culvert treatments around the river and improving roughness characteristics in the Belyando Crossing are some of the other early works taking place. 

The Queensland government says major culvert works will also take place between Roma and Injune, while another bridge widening project will take place on the Carnarvon Highway and strengthening and widening projects will go ahead on two parts of Gregory Development Road between Clermont and Charter Towers. 

Mayors whose towns are located along the route have come out in support of the route alongside truck drivers. The popularity of the project among driversgrew following a recently organised bus trip from the QTA along the route. 

With support from members such as Frasers Livestock Transport and Blenners Transport, bus passengers rotated throughout the trip and were able to experience the road through the lens of a modern multi combination truck. 

“I think that’s a sign of how much interest there has been, and we’ve received quite a bit of support from fleets,” Mahon says. 

“Even now, I’m getting feedback from more and more operators who live out on that corridor that truck numbers are building all the time, and this is before a lot of this work has been undertaken. 

 Mahon says that Queensland truckies are all for the new Inland Freight Route

While it may ease pressure on the Bruce Highway, Mahon says that what he refers to as retail freight will most likely still travel along it. 

However, Mahon says that a major opportunity the Inland Freight Route brings is that big multi combinations will be able to tow up to three trailers along itwhereas the Bruce is still a while away from allowing for such a feat. 

Mahon says that with road freight growth expected to exceed more than 40 per cent in Queensland by 2030, along with the Bruce being as flood prone as it is, the state needed an alternate route to the highway. 

Even if rail took another 10 or 11 per cent share, which is feasible, we’re still talking significant growth in road freight,” Mahon says. 

Mahon says that with specifics such as greater pavement widths and bridge entries as well as multi combination truck use being in mind, the Inland Freight Route will be a more reliable corridor than the Bruce Highway. 

Queensland’s freight spine has also been strengthened with this addition. The Inland Freight Route joins the Bruce as the second north-south freight corridor, while there’s three major east-west corridors in the Flinders, Capricorn and Warrego Highways along with the southern corridor of the Cunningham Highway. 

Questions still remain though over the project, particularly when it comes to whether the federal government will keep its 80:20 commitment to the project or change it to the new 50:50 formula. 

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is calling on the federal government to stay with its commitment for the project while Bailey says that if the funding formula was changed, it would impact the state’s regional communities. 

Royal Automobile Club of Queensland CEO and managing director David Carter also agrees that he doesn’t want to see a shift in funding. Mahon says that he is optimistic that the support from the federal government on the project will remain. 

Funding may not be affected for this particular project, but Mahon says there are concerns about some projects that the pulled funding may affect in the near future, such as upgrades on the damaged Flinders, Peak Downs and Gore Highways. 

“It is an existing project, so there is some potential that the 80/20 principle may remain,” Mahon says. 

“They’ve made no promises, but at the same time we’ve had very good progressive discussions and I think common sense will prevail.” 

10-12 bridges that Mahon says are critical for an efficient freight corridor could also be impacted from the pulled federal government funding. In particular, Mahon says that money may not be put into the improvement of the Bremner River bridge in Ipswichwhich is holding to ransom’ what could be an effective freight corridor. 

“We’re waiting to see when a decision’s going to be made on those bridges and when they’re made how the federal government is going to look at the funding of those as well,” Mahon says.

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