Riggers Road Bridge reopens in Roma as part of tourism revamp

Sally Gall
By Sally Gall
Updated December 17 2021 - 2:11am, first published December 16 2021 - 10:00pm
Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder, third left, along with councillors Cam O'Neill, Joh Hancock, George Ladbrook, Geoff McMullen and Julie Guthrie, cut the ribbon to open the renewed Riggers Road Bridge. Picture: Sally Gall

It's likely the opening of the $7m viewing tower at the Big Rig at Roma will attract a larger audience than the one present at the re-opening of the Riggers Road Bridge connecting the tourist attraction with the town on Thursday.

There were three bystanders at the event, one of whom wondered whether it might by similar to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, when Francis de Groot, a member of a fascist paramilitary organisation, intervened on horseback to cut the tape before NSW Premier Jack Lang could do so.

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It was not to be, with Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder quietly cutting the ribbon and declaring that they'd never seen the bridge looking so good.

It was formerly a Main Roads bridge on the main entrance into Roma but is now sited at the end of the Big Rig carpark.

Cr Golder said the refurbished bridge, completed with $275,000 in federal funding, would be a great asset for tourists visiting the attraction, where people currently struggled to turn caravans in the space available.

"It was always designed for traffic to come into town, through the Big Rig parklands and then out," he said. "The biggest thing is, we're letting traffic flow."

He said easing the congestion created by long caravans parking would probably provide more parking spaces as well.

It can cater for loads up to 15 tonnes of one-way traffic.

Towering discontent

That piece of Roma's history, given a major refurbishment in 1987 that involved the Australian Army as a training exercise and calling on Queensland Rail's knowledge of bridge building, is a lot less controversial than the other tourism enhancement nearby.

The viewing tower, adjacent to and the same height as the 1929 vintage steam-powered drilling rig that forms the centrepiece of the Big Rig tourist centre, has drawn considerable criticism from sections of the local community.

It's been variously described as an eyesore, detracting from the historic rig, and sited in the wrong place.

A treetop walk will complement the tower.

The viewing tower lift is currently being installed.

Cr Golder said its siting had been agreed on by a majority of councillors.

He added that it was his personal concern that it may take away from the rig itself, but said the community would have to try it and see.

"Someone said, maybe it's where we have twilight viewing," he said. "Now that it's there, how do you make the best of it. One of the residents said we should put a coffee place up the top."

The opening has been delayed, thanks to difficulties obtaining building materials, but Cr Golder said the last thing to go in was the lift, which he understood was underway.

"A lot of our nomads are not megafit, so everyone gets a chance to go up the top now," he said.

The tower is expected to increase tourism visitation and Cr Golder said the business case supported that.

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"We've really got to try it and see, you know," he said. "It's a council decision and that's democracy."

Bridge refurb a specialised effort

The council worked closely with Wood Research and Design and Timber Restoration Systems Pty Ltd to restore the Riggers Road Bridge.

Some of the key activities completed included replacement and wrapping of several bridge piles, strengthening of main girders and centre headstock, reconstruction of western end wall, and installation of new timber kerbing and deck surfacing.

The deck tray originally installed by the Australian Defence Force was retained in the restoration.

The upgrade also includes safety improvements to the existing pedestrian walkway, with improvements to the footpath and installation of new timber handrails.

Maranoa MP David Littleproud congratulated the council in securing funding to move the project from a wish list into a reality.

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"I heavily advocated for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program to support councils like Maranoa through COVID-19 and this $275,000 federal injection proves our commitment to better infrastructure in the bush," Mr Littleproud said.

"This is a terrific example of our government continuing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with councils and the communities they serve, delivering the funding needed to create jobs, economic stimulus and road and community infrastructure that will benefit Australians well into the future.

"I'm sure locals and visitors will welcome the safety and access improvements to the Big Rig Parklands, along with safety improvements to the Warrego Highway."

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Sally Gall

Sally Gall

Senior journalist - Queensland Country Life/North Queensland Register

Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.

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