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Infrastructure and Transport – Tasman Bridge Replacement

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Tags: Infrastructure

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm not entirely sure whether you've answered this question previously, so please let me know if you have. It's about the Tasman Bridge replacement investment. Have you been asked questions about that?

Mr FERGUSON - I haven't.

Dr WOODRUFF - I note the substantial commitment to the replacement process, but my understanding is that that pipeline of money was provided by the federal Liberal government, so I'm wondering whether you've been in conversation with the new Labor minister to ensure that that funding pipeline will still be available.

Mr FERGUSON - I have reached out to the new federal Infrastructure minister, Catherine King, and have conveyed to her my congratulations and that I look forward to working with her. I have no concerns about that funding at all. Both governments have been very clear in their commitment to this project, and I have no reason to think that the federal Labor Government would do anything other than honour that project. I'm not sure if we can discuss what level of agreement we've reached with them for a PPR. Has the PPR been signed?

Ms McINTYRE - Not yet, but the funding was committed pre this current Budget.

Mr FERGUSON - It was. I believe we placed the full amount of $130 million in last year's budget, so I have no concerns about the funding profile going forward. It's a really important project for me, for our Government and for the state.

Just to pick you up on your use of the word 'replacement', we won't replace but we will strengthen the bridge. That's the first priority for that project. You may like to ask questions about how that's going but the first priority is to strengthen it. We cannot add the additional pathways and the weight and sheer stresses that places on the bridge without first doing a restrengthening project. To allow the bridge to carry the extra weight of three-metre pathways each side plus the protective wall that will prevent any accidents from occurring, we need to do the restrengthening work first, which has the secondary effect of extending the life of the bridge I think to 2070 if I'm not mistaken. If there are any other questions I'm happy to have them.

Dr WOODRUFF - That takes me to my next question. There is a view in the community that's been put to me that the bridge is past its use-by date so it would be good if you could make a clear statement about that. I want to stress this is a view I am representing that people have made to me of concerns about the bridge. Obviously people with a history of what happened to the bridge are concerned to understand that the Government has a plan for replacement. Can you please talk us through exactly what the lifespan of the bridge is, what the plan for a replacement is, the likely possible future cost, how could that happen and what are we doing to set on that pathway?

Mr FERGUSON - That's a fair question. I can reassure you and your constituents that the advice we've received via our consultants, GHD, who did this work on assessing the strength and life of the bridge as it currently is. The advice we've received is that, subject to this project being fulfilled, which will take a number of years, the bridge is fit for service and its life can be extended. I was working off my memory only when I said that the project will extend the life of the bridge to 2070. I'm going to triple check that with my people at the table and if we need to bring that back, we can do so. But there's no plans to replace the bridge because we don't need to. The bridge is fit for purpose. And with its strengthening project, which will allow us to build on those three-metre-wide pathways on each side, the bridge is fit for purpose long into the future. Denise, could you add to that and indicate if we need to check the date, please?

Ms McINTYRE - In terms of determining the life of the bridge, there are a number of factors that determine whether a bridge is fit for purpose. One can be capacity in terms of the weight it can carry. You can undertake strengthening works to extend the life in terms of its ability to carry, depending on the traffic that the strengthening is designed for.

The capacity is also related to the amount of vehicles it can carry. Obviously, there's a lot of work being done on congestion around Hobart and the extension and expansion of passenger transport or high volume movement of people as alternatives to people getting into their cars. The pathways are intended to provide an active transport alternative for travelling across the river as well.

Our consultants have no concern and we have no concern that we need to be planning to replace the Tasman Bridge in the near future.

Dr WOODRUFF - Did GHD give a date? And when was their report done?

Basically, what you're telling Tasmanians is that the bridge has been certified, after the strengthening work has been completed, as structurally integral for a life of up to 2070. Is that what you are saying?

Mr FERGUSON - That is what I'm saying. Also, because Ms McIntyre has been unable to confirm it for me at the table, we'll double-check the date because I know that it was in the report.

Ms McINTYRE - Giving an actual date is a bit like, we can't actually certify it, it very much depends on -

Dr WOODRUFF - I accept what you've just said. I do understand it.

Ms McINTYRE - But it has a long lifespan left. It's part-way through its lifespan. We will undertake works on a needs basis to ensure that it's fit for purpose into the future.

Dr WOODRUFF - And those strengthening works, when will they be completed?

Mr FERGUSON - That will be 2025-26. And the pathways. The entire project.

But I would like to make sure I give correct information to the committee, working off my memory. I'll come back to the committee if there's any clarification required as to its expected economic lifespan post the restrengthening.