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15 March, 2021

Blast risk fixed

AT LAST it’s happened! The risk of blowing-up over 600 children and teachers at the Walkerston State School, like the horrific explosion in Beruit, will soon be prevented when work starts on the $150M, 11.3km long, Walkerston Bypass.

By John Bell

Every day, over six million litres of fuel and the highly explosive ammonium nitrate are trucked past the Walkerston State School and the adjacent 90-degree left turn onto a narrow and dilapidated wooden bridge, which is the start of the Peak Down Highway to the coal fields and to the Bowen Basin.

The map of Walkerston, (supplied by Mackay’s Road Accident Action Group), shows the school at the dead centre of a possible blast area, if there is a potential accident, which happened elsewhere when a truck carrying ammonium nitrate had an electric fault and caught fire with a massive explosion near Taroom.

Fires were started up to one kilometre away which were lit by hot metal.

However this danger at Walkerston is now much worse, as mining truck traffic has dramatically increased since 2014, when Mackay’s Road Accident Action Group observed B-Doubles with fuel on the narrow main street past the Walkerston State School, child care centre and Catholic school every nine minutes.

Back then, 238 B-double trucks, 217 semi-rigid and 691 heavy rigid trucks passed the Walkerston State School every day with many of these trucks carrying dangerous goods and then turning sharp left turn onto the old wooden bridge.

The danger of a collision is much worse and magnified, as many of the trucks are 3.5m wide and the old timber bridge lanes are only 2.8M wide.

Pleas to prevent this potential road accident death trap first started forty-three years ago in 1972, when the National Party’s MP for Mirani and the then Police Minister, Tom Newbury first proposed a Walkerston Bypass in 1972.

Then fatal accidents on the Peak Down Highway to the coal fields prompted Mackay’s Road Accident Action Group to call for a Walkerston Bypass in 2012.

To rub salt into the wound, Dawson MP, George Christensen explained that even though billions of dollars of Bowen Basin mining and coal mining royalties has been poured into the Brisbane’s focussed Palasczczuk Government, it refused to pay for and build the Walkerston Bypass.

In comparison, Transport Minister Mark Bailey has been accused of spending $500 million to relate Brisbane’s former Bogo Road railway station by 400 metres, allegedly so public servants don’t have to walk up the hill to work.

“In 2004, I started a petition when a Walkerston Councillor, which raised anxiety at a Commonwealth level about trucks carrying the high explosive, ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel down the main street of Walkerston and past the Walkerston State School, children minding centre and the Catholic school.

“Mackay’s Road Accident Action Group briefed me when I was a Walkerston Councillor with the Mackay Regional Council.

“The Peak Downs Highway is a state road and former state Mackay MP, Tim Mulherin told me to cease agitating and he would get some funds, which led to a scoping study to plan the route for the Walkerston Bypass.

“Then after nothing happened and as the federal member for Dawson, the Mackay’s Road Accident Action Group, and I met with Queensland’s Transport Minister, Mark Bailey in 2016.

“I offered to try and secure 50 percent Commonwealth funding for the Walkerston Bypass, if the Palaszczuk state government came to the party and started work on the Bypass.

“Mark Bailey said, yes.

“So Michalle Loundry and I got this funding, but we still had to lead the Palaszczuk Government kicking and screaming to build the Walkerston Bypass and now they will try and take the credit !

“For example, the Bypass was delayed yet again, as Minister Mark Baily went against his promise and demanded that the Commonwealth Government pay for 80 percent of the total cost of the Walkerston Bypass.

‘So Michelle and I got an additional 30 percent of the funding and the Commonwealth agreed to pay 80 percent of the cost and then the Palaszczuk had nowhere to go.

“It’s been an unnecessarily drawn out process and it’s taken way too long to get built.”

Mr Christensen added that the three benefits from the Walkerston bypass are:

  • Moving dangerous fuels and explosive goods away from 800 children and teachers at the Walkerston State School;
  • A major job generator has been created, as construction will take several years; plus
  • the Bypass seamlessly integrates a direct route between the Bowen Basin and Mackay Port, which will improve freight efficiency and create more jobs

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