The Queensland Labor Corporation last year engaged a Cairns green consulting firm to produce a $1.6 million report requiring a predetermined outcome about finding a new road access to Cairns
Queensland Labor Transport Minister Mark Bailey has been steadfastly opposing any new road to take the place of the outdated and extremely dangerous Kuranda Range Road connecting the Atherton Tablelands to Cairns.
Bailey cannot drive a car therefore makes an excellent choice of a Labor academic in charge of the state’s massive road network.
The report’s author, Mark Aitken, CEO of ARUP consultancy firm in Cairns was tasked to deliver a report finding no new road access was needed until 2051, an incredulous outcome in face of the facts.
When the $1.6m funding, secured by the KAP Member for Hill, Shane Knuth was announced in August, the newly formed Kuranda Range Road Bypass Committee contacted Mr Aitken offering him support and mentioned the Reddicliffe Bypass which had been on the table for 30 years.
The committee offered to take Mr Aitken onsite to inspect the route which is considered by engineers and road transport operators as the best and most cost-effective, alternative bypass available.
Mr Aitken declined the offer of inspection but took a phone number for future reference.
He was never heard from again.
The committee by then realised the Minister and the consultant had no intention of investigating a new road and would produce a bogus report.
In a foreword to the report, it was stated that local authorities had been consulted about the contents, however a Mareeba Shire Council spokesperson was unaware of any contact with ARUP.
A joint Far North Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils and Main Roads Department investigation revealed Kuranda Range Road vehicle movements were far in excess of its design capacity in 2017.
In other words the range road has been redundant for five years.
The ARUP report found the Kuranda Range Road was not trafficable during a total of 44 closures averaging 6.6 hours annually due to accidents.
This data is at best absurd as any driver who lives on the Tablelands would know. The actual rate of closures, many unreported, is much more, particularly in the wet season when landslides, fallen trees and innumerable vehicle accidents close the road often for 4 to 5 hours at a time.
Latest advice received from shire council sources is the Environment Department now requires a total foliage umbrella for the length of the road, which is another disaster waiting to happen and a dangerous, inhibiting factor for heavy vehicle, wide or high loads.
Excessive leaf litter on the already diesel-smeared, slippery surface will send many more light vehicles over the edge. No sunlight will ensure the road stays wet.
Another glaring anomaly in the report states 93 per cent of travel movements are within two minutes of the expected travel time. Most range travelers today allow three to five hours on top of their estimated travel time to get to Cairns Airport or for medical appointments. Some travelers go the day before staying overnight in Cairns.
“The planning study found that while there are clear challenges with each corridor, none of the existing corridors are operating at capacity.
Traffic analysis indicates 93 per cent of travel movements on the Kuranda Range are within two minutes of the expected travel time.
On average, travel duration (light vehicles) is extended by 30 to 40 seconds throughout the day due to the presence of slower moving heavy vehicles.”
It gets worse:
“Current modelling indicates that with natural growth rates traffic volumes on the Kuranda Range Road will not reach the threshold for major upgrades until 2051.
Major development on the tablelands could increase growth rates and bring forward the need for major capacity upgrades.
While currently not needed, actions can be taken to progress towards planning for an alternative alignment in the long-term…….”
The erroneously-named Bridle Track at Davies Creek was not investigated as an alternative route or was the Reddicliffe Bypass which starts east of the Davies Creek bridge on the Kennedy Highway and takes a direct line eastwards to emerge on state government owned vacant land next to the Boral Quarry on Intake Road in Redlynch Valley, Cairns.
An Intake Rd overpass has been included in the plan along with an entry and exit ramp for local traffic, thus allaying any concerns about extra vehicles along Intake Rd.
The new corridor crosses a small wet area and follows the edge of a wet sclerophyll forest to intersect with the Western Arterial Highway.
Contrary to wild claims of destroying homes in Redlynch by Mark Bailey and the Labor Member for Barron River, Craig Crawford, the Reddicliffe Bypass does not provide for one house or any private property resumption excepting a small vacant allotment on the edge of the Western Arterial Hwy.
“This proposed(Reddicliffe) highway is a project no government would ever build due to its hideous cost and destruction of a heritage listed National Park,” said the Greens-driven Mark Bailey.
The cost of the Reddicliffe Bypass has been estimated at well under $500m. A new bridge across the Barron River is estimated at $700m leaving intact the problems with the Kuranda Range Road. There is an existing road access through the national park which would form a part of the new road and there would be minimal disturbance, said committee members.
Bailey has been totally inept and incompetent as a transport Minister according to Cape York transport industry spokesman John Witherspoon who operates road trains across the north.
“The Labor Party wants to shut down Cape York and Gulf cattle and farming industries” he said.
“While we have a new bitumen Peninsula Development Road built mostly with federal funding,
we have a road bottleneck starting at Mt Molloy restricting truck access to Mareeba, Cairns and the port.
“Now the Barron River bridge at Kuranda is back to single lane because it is structurally unsound.
“The Reddicliffe Bypass is the most sensible solution of the lot.”
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter whose electorate takes in the Tablelands has been scathing of Bailey and the Labor Corporation for ignoring the community which is crying out for a new road to Cairns.
“There are 56,000 people living on the Tablelands and 5 percent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable production is land-locked and cannot access the Cairns Port or a proposed deep-water port at Yarrabah,” Mr Katter said.
“We are in a situation where the State Government doesn’t know if the Kuranda Bridge is or isn’t safe. And even when the bridge is open, that route closes 44 times a year for an average of seven hours per closure (according to their own report).
“Despite this, they tell us that a new road from Cairns to the Tablelands isn’t viable, but they are spending $6b on the Cross River Rail to save Brisbane commuters five minutes, and are also spending billions on the Olympic Games in Brisbane, a sporting contest that will last two weeks!”
A bypass road for the Kuranda Range is well into the planning stages by private means and has passed every test as a viable route from Mareeba to Cairns taking 20 minutes off the existing dangerous Kuranda Range track with its outdated, derelict, Barron River traffic bridge.
In spite of the garbage spewed forth by the Labor state member for Barron River and former ambulance attendant Craig Crawford, there would not be one house resumption , there would be no added traffic to Intake Road at Redlynch, no tunnels and it can be built in 18 months for $450 million.
This is $1.5 billion cheaper than Member for Kennedy Bob Katter’s ‘wobbly way’ to Edmonton and without heavy transport-inhibiting tunnels.
In a public tussle between Crawford and Bob Katter every bogey man possible has been dreamt up by poor Craig, in between drinks of course, believing houses will be bulldozed presumably with occupants intact and the job will take 15 years. Then he found two martians drinking at the bar under his house and discovered all his port and brandy had disappeared.
After a brawl with the slippery aliens, a somewhat bruised Craig called the ambos but they were too busy carting vaxx-damaged victims to the overflowing Cairns Base Hospital and told him to visit the local doctor.
He got his missus to drive him the few hundred metres but the clinic staff wouldn’t let him in because he hadn’t been jabbed.
Ah well back to Smithfield Tavern to top up his depleted supplies, nurse his bruises and lie-in-wait near his bar with a baseball bat for the martians to reappear.
Craig is moving his office from Smithfield away from the nearby ambulance station in case he is called to re-enlist as a driver to help replace the 600 ambos he and his Cabinet colleagues sacked because they won’t take the deadly jab. Nor will Craig – the Premier said he didn’t have to.
He is off to Redlynch to set up his new office, fortuitously near the shops and in case the martians come back, he can walk to the bottleo.
After Tablelands commuters threatened to lynch poor Craig last year over the poor state of the Kuranda Range Road and its 1000 daily, heavy vehicle movements, he promised the problem would soon be fixed.
He told ABC Radio he would place driver-less cars on the range and that would stop the cars and trucks from careering over the edge.
That didn’t go too well with many angry truckies thinking he was looking through the bottom of a brandy bottle while he was solving the problem.
Nevertheless now he is installing a system of stop and go lights along the length of the range road trying to stifle the traffic flow.
The cabling contract alone will cost $30 million and it’s anybody’s guess what the completed project will cost or if it will work.
Poor Craig, he wasted $30 million on the range road that was declared obsolete by the Main Roads Department in 2005. Those funds could have provided the necessary corridor for the proposed Reddicliffe Highway from Mareeba to the Cairns CBD.
If the state government had anything to do with the road construction then it would most likely take 20 years to build, one astute engineer quipped.
“We can build it in 18 months,” the engineer said.
Craig was being conservative probably for the first time in his life at 15 years.
The Far Northern Queensland city of Cairns owes its existence to the Atherton Tablelands and the wider hinterland’s agricultural, tourist and mining industries.
This revelation was central to a public meeting held at Mareeba on Tuesday night when respected Cairns economist Bill Cummings told a large meeting of residents the hinterland contributed $4.5 billion annually to the Cairns economy.
The meeting was held to push the state government into constructing an alternative road access to Cairns, bypassing the dangerous Kuranda Range Road.
Several alternative routes were proposed at the meeting which resulted in a unanimous resolution being carried instructing the state government to begin construction of a new four lane highway by November 30, 2021.
For three generations Tablelands and Peninsula residents have had to tolerate one of the most dangerous highways in Australia that links the vast areas of the north and west to the business hub and port of Cairns.
A report commissioned by the FNQ Regional Organisation of Councils revealed the Kuranda Range Road was officially made redundant by The Main Roads in 2005.
Here we are 16 years later still suffering the ignominy of a state government that spends billions on the pampered south-east corner of the state while totally neglecting the million or more people of North Queensland.
Cairns residents don’t have to put up with inferior, dangerous roads in the same manner as its hinterland brothers. Therefore in light of the enormous economic benefit bestowed upon Cairns residents they should have the courteousness to support an essential road upgrade for the very people to whom they owe their economic existence.
Cairns road objectors should be supporting the Tablelands’ reach for a new road which will greatly enhance their economy as more and new industry will have the ability to open and expand.
Particularly as the deliberate government sabotage of tourism and small business has devastated the local Cairns economy which now hinges on the efforts of its own and hinterland industries.
The state government for the same reasons should follow suite.
A committee of concerned Tablelands’ residents was set up earlier in the year to create public awareness of the need for a new road and has succeeded in attracting at least some awareness from the Brisbane Labor Party although no Labor representatives turned up at the Mareeba meeting.
Similarly there was no response from Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Rod Marti or any supportive response from Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin.
However Mareeba and Tablelands councils are members of FNQROC which has taken up the slack on their behalf by supporting a new road. – contributed