Bremer River Bridge delays choke state’s most important freight corridor

Just as commuters are feeling the frustration of delays on the Bremer River Bridge, national and international freight routes are facing pressure, triggering widespread economic consequences. The Warrego Highway is the second-highest trafficked rural national highway outside of South-East Queensland, moving almost 6,000 heavy vehicles per day, and represents the most critical freight route for heavy vehicles carrying agricultural, construction, defence, and resources cargo connecting the Port of Brisbane to Toowoomba, Surat Basin, South-West, and Central-West regions of Queensland, and beyond to connecting routes linking Darwin and Melbourne. 

Starting this month, the westbound lanes are to be closed in order repair the 65-year-old bridge, with the specialist welding works to be done at nights, when there will be no vehicle access. The works are planned to take up to 5 months to finish. This is not a long-term fix, with works underway a temporary solution. Economic development organisation Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), support industry calls for the State Government to provide a long-term solution for the vital roadway.

“Almost daily we are hearing concerns from our members about how they are going to manage the cost to their people and to their bottom line,” says TSBE CEO April Cavanagh.

“We can’t express how critical the Bremer River Bridge is in connecting our state, and this really demonstrates how reliant we are on one freight corridor and highlights the need to diversify our transport options.”

Off the back of a good season, bumper crops will soon to be heading out of region to the Port of Brisbane for export. Local business owner Peter Hart of Grain Hart estimates that 20 to 30 containers of produce will need to pass over the Bremer River Bridge every day. In expressing concern, he has not ruled out that impacts will include reducing the number of shifts he can run per day, which will increase freight costs and ultimately be passed on to primary producers.

Critical supplies, like fuel, are also impacted. IOR Executive Chairman, Stewart Morland said that IOR has, on average, 110 truck movements along this corridor each week to keep agriculture, energy, and transport industries fuelled up and moving.  Mr Morland says that IOR stands alongside its transport customers in delivering a more productive Queensland.

“So many family-owned transport operators are losing hundreds of hours in productivity every year by having to break-down trailers, just so they can cross the Bremer River Bridge.

We’re feeling the efficiency squeeze ourselves, so we know our customers are too. The Bremer River Bridge is the main artery of the South-East corner and there is no other option on the table to address this issue.

We need to focus on supporting local transport businesses to be more productive so Queensland can be too,” said Mr. Morland.

Another critical regional industry that will experience severe impacts, is energy production. The Toowoomba and Surat Basin region is Queensland’s energy capital and is home to the front line of our transition to renewables, with almost 1,500 wind towers currently in operation or under construction. This means the freight and logistics requirements of transporting wind turbine blades and supporting materials from port to sites in region is reliant on traversing the Bremer River Bridge. The implications of a regional road network not up to capacity, will significantly impact the delivery of the Queensland Governments energy transformation plans. In their public submission to Queensland Parliaments Clean Economy Jobs, Resources and Transport Committee, the Port of Brisbane expressed the view that ‘direct investment in the upgrade of the Bremer River Bridge by the State Government must be of the highest priority’ for ‘without this investment, the logistics of moving these components to site becomes more costly and therefore puts long‐term energy transition projects at risk’. 

A business case to replace the Bremer River Bridge identifying the significant defects present was developed in 2019. To date, the business case has not been released, and no other plans have been provided to address critical connectivity and reduced usage the bridge. TSBE call on the State to prioritise a Bremer River Bridge solution that works with local government and industry to get a long-term result in place to alleviate the choke hold the Bremer River Bridge currently has on our economy. 





Image: Ipswich News Today