A new cane rail bridge which would cross the Burnett River at the Strathdees boat ramp has been proposed by Bundaberg Sugar Ltd to address increased transport costs.
The construction of the bridge would mean a return to a historical transport route, with the location once hosting a cable ferry crossing.
The proposed infrastructure is the subject of a current public notification period which will run until 18 February 2022.
The sugar grower, miller, refiner and marketer is one of Australia’s largest and oldest cane growers, owning and operating sugar mills in Queensland and distributing product to retail, industrial and export customers.
But in 2020, largely spurred by reduced cane tonnage, Bundaberg Sugar made the decision to close the Bingera Mill, consolidating its milling operations at the Millaquin Mill in East Bundaberg.
As a result of the mill closure, an Environmental Assessment Report prepared by Insite SJC said the “substantial increase in transport costs for cane on the north of the Burnett River … jeopardises the viability of sugar milling in Bundaberg”.
Construction of the cane rail bridge would remove about 48,000 additional heavy vehicle movements from local roads during the crushing season.
“Heavy vehicle road transport also introduces considerable burdens on the local and State Government road transport networks, environmental impacts, residential amenity imposts and reduced road traffic safety,” the report said.
“It is within this context that BSL proposes to construct a cane rail bridge across the Burnett River between Strathdees Road, Rubyanna to a point contiguous to the north of River Road, Fairymead …
“The sole purpose of the bridge will be to transport cane.
“As such it will [be] built and operated by BSL.”
Mayor Jack Dempsey encouraged the community to take part in the notification process and share their views.
The new rail line would extend from existing Bundaberg Sugar rail infrastructure on the west side of the Burnett River on River Road at Fairymead through BSL land (with level crossings at Fairymead Access Road and Gahans Road) before transitioning to trestles as it approaches the Burnett River.
The bridge itself would cross the river from a point just north of River Road to Strathdees Road at Rubyanna on the eastern bank.
On the east side of the river, the bridge would connect to trestles situated in the northern verge of Strathdees Road before the rail line loops across Strathdees Road to connect with existing cane rail infrastructure in the vicinity of Barrons Road.
The bridge also incorporates a 25-metre-wide retractable opening span which will remain in the open position outside of the cane crushing season.
During the cane crushing season, the opening span would be operated from the Millaquin Mill Traffic Control Office and manned 24/7.
A vessel with a height that necessitates the opening of the bridge could either pre-book an opening or telephone the Traffic Control Office to request the bridge be opened.
The report also outlined the bridge design concept and includes artist impressions.
“Whilst the bridge has the benefit of an operational works approval, land use approval is also required for the bridge, bridge trestles and rail line,” the report explains.
If constructed, the cane rail infrastructure would be built over cane land, road reserve, the Burnett River and its banks.
“The eastern bank aligns with remaining infrastructure associated with the former cable ferry crossing used by BSL to transport cane.
“Much of the infrastructure alignment is a modified environment that will introduce minimal additional impacts, including minimal impacts to marine and terrestrial vegetation and habitat.
“The bridge design, construction methodology and operation minimise disturbance to the environment, to users of the Burnett River and to public infrastructure.”
To view the report in full and to make a submission during the cane rail bridge public notification period, head to Our Bundaberg Region.