Nalder denies inaction on bridge alert system
Damage control: Workers on Fremantle Rail Bridge. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The State Government had dragged its heels installing an early warning system that would automatically prevent trains crossing the Fremantle Rail Bridge if it became unstable, the Opposition claimed yesterday.

As it happened, trains were unable to cross the damaged bridge after the container ship AAL Fremantle struck it on Sunday night because the power was cut, but Fremantle MP Simone McGurk said the technology should have been in place to make sure.

The early warning system was proposed after a refuelling barge struck the bridge in May 2011, but the Government tendered for it only in April.

As part of the system, to be operational from next year, a series of movement and laser sensors would alert train operators if the bridge moved or was hit.

Train services between Fremantle and North Fremantle are likely to be replaced by buses for at least a week while engineers repair the bridge, which sustained damage to its overhead power system and supporting infrastructure. Services are operating normally between Perth and North Fremantle.

Freight rail services will also be affected but Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the impact would be minimal because 87 per cent of freight to and from Fremantle port was by truck.

Mr Nalder defended the Government's maintenance of the bridge, including the planned installation by 2016 of five steel and concrete barricades known as "dolphins" designed to prevent vessels hitting it.

"We will now wait, assess the damage, make sure we get the bridge up and operating again first and then we need to do a longer-term review and see what mitigating things we need to put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

Ms McGurk accused the Government of "neglecting basic infrastructure in Fremantle and instead focusing on their pet projects".

Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes said the nearest train was at least a station away when the vessel struck the bridge.

The West Australian

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