A beloved landmark and a prominent part of Gundagai’s history, the Prince Alfred Bridge will soon be removed due to the significant risks posed to both people and structures downstream, the NSW Government has announced.
Work to remove the structure is expected to start in late November and be completed in December, following planning and environmental approvals.
Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said removing the timber structure, which has been closed to traffic since 1984, was necessary after an engineering assessment showed significant structural defects and concerns it would collapse even in a relatively minor flood event, posing significant risks to life and other infrastructure.
“While it’s sad to say goodbye to this piece of local history, it’s just not feasible to restore or replace the 156-year-old timber viaduct,” Mrs Pavey said.
“But I want to reassure the community that the NSW Government wants to hear what the community has to say and their thoughts on the options to preserve the history of the bridge for future generations, with salvageable materials to be reused as part of a local tribute where possible.”
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said locals were encouraged to play an active role in planning to memorialise the much-loved bridge.
“There is an opportunity to create a place for locals and visitors to congregate, that celebrates the bridge’s history and the valuable role it has played in the community,” Ms Cooke said.
“Options will be considered on how best to capture the historical significance of the bridge and how to share the great memories many locals have of the bridge.
“We will be reaching out to the community soon for feedback so when the time comes, I urge the people of Gundagai to put forward their suggestions on what the memorial may look like.
“I thank the many people who have been involved in the discussions about the bridge over several years, especially the passionate members of Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc.”
Consultations on the future of the structure have occurred over many years and recently through a working group including the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Crown Lands, Transport for NSW, Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc, the National Trust, Engineering Australia, and the Office of Environment and Heritage.
“We understand this is a significant loss for the Gundagai community but the ongoing risk to life and other infrastructure is too great,” Ms Cooke said.
The structure, built on Crown Land, was opened in 1867. It remained the longest bridge in New South Wales until the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.
In May 2021, an oversized truck hit the structure, forcing a section of the viaduct to be removed over O I Bell Drive. Since this time the ongoing wet weather in the area has significantly accelerated the deterioration of the bridge’s condition.
The separate Prince Alfred iron road bridge which is still in operation across the Murrumbidgee River, and the nearby disused rail viaduct, will both remain in place.