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Hard closure of key freight bridge causes uproar

A bridge that acts as a key Murray River crossing will be closed for six weeks from late May for upgrades – but not everyone is happy about it.

Tooleybuc Bridge is a heritage-listed timber truss bridge that runs across the Murray River at the small border town of Tooleybuc, NSW.

It’s a major freight route connecting Sydney and Adelaide and its future has been up in the air for many years.

The Tooleybuc Bridge was originally ear-marked for removal in 2012 and by 2013, Transport for NSW had begun early planning work for a new bridge in the town.

But following a NSW Government review of timber truss road bridges in 2019, Tooleybuc Bridge was listed as one of eight bridges in the state that could be upgraded instead.

The review recommended that Tooleybuc Bridge needed to be retained and Transport for NSW investigated opportunities to strengthen the current bridge to allow trucks carrying heavier loads to cross the river without damaging the structure.

As a result, the bridge will be closed for six weeks from May 23 as upgrades are undertaken.

But residents of the border town say there has been no consultation and are vowing to fight the decision.

Independent MP for Murray, Helen Dalton, attended an emergency meeting about the issue on Thursday, which she says was attended by about one third of Tooleybuc’s small population.

Speaking of the upcoming closure, she shared on Facebook, “This will devastate the Tooleybuc Sporting Club, Tooleybuc Motel and all tourism businesses who are still reeling from Covid border closures. This NSW Government could easily have done repairs when the border was closed, but didn’t.”

She says the NSW Government’s decision to shut the Tooleybuc Bridge without consulting the local community “is a disgrace”.

“After being destroyed by the Government’s border closure, Tooleybuc will not be able to cope with six weeks of being cut off from tourists. The Government must now come up with an alternative urgently,” she added.

Works to the bridge will include the installation of steel piles and trestles to better support and strengthen the bridge.

As a result, detours will be in place. Light vehicles will be able to cross the Murray River via Nyah Bridge, while B-doubles will be detoured via Swan Hill Bridge.

Citrus producer Leon Caccaviello told ABC News that the closure would add to his transportation costs, estimating that each crate of produce taken to market could cost an extra $100 due to detours.

He, along with numerous others in the community, is proposing that authorities install a temporary bridge to minimise the impact of the upgrades.

Back in 2012 when it was decided that the bridge would be removed, the NSW government also acquired several properties that were due to be demolished. Caccaviello’s home was among these.

“My house was acquired. I didn’t sell it to them, I didn’t want to,” he told ABC News. “I lived in that house for 16 years.”

After it was decided that the bridge would be repaired rather than demolished in 2019, Caccaviello says his former home was put up for rent.

“Acquiring land and homes and then not doing anything with that and saying ‘too bad’, [the community] is understandably very upset,” he said.

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