?Some of the main girders are rusted through at the drip points and rivets have fallen out.?
?Some of the main girders are rusted through at the drip points and rivets have fallen out.?

Repton bridge rundown

By CRAIG McTEAR

ERN Mercer has been watching and waiting.

Waiting for 25 years for authorities to clean up the rusted and rundown Repton rail bridge over the Bellinger River.

The long-time Repton resident says the three-span steel girder bridge hasn't been painted or had any maintenance work on it since 1981/82, and he fears it is now beyond repair.

He has written to the relevant rail authorities over the years and as far back as 1998, he pleaded for action in the Coffs Coast Advocate, all to no avail.

However, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) says the bridge is listed for a facelift.

"It's in a bloody shocking state, and I'm concerned nothing has been done," Ern, who lives 200 metres downstream of the bridge, said this week.

"It should be brought to the attention of the public. It is structurally unsound.

"Some of the main girders are rusted through at the drip points, and rivets have fallen out.

"I'm reliably informed it's so far gone the only solution would be to build a new bridge."

He said the bridge was at the mercy of the salt air, considering it was only 3km from the surf.

"When those southerlies come up the river, they have a very high content of salt," he said.

"You can sit in your boat under that bridge and watch the rust jumping off. It's not just surface rust, it's structural rust.

"In all of the years that nothing has been done with the Repton bridge, the Urunga rail bridge has been painted twice.

"Perhaps that's because the bridge at Urunga is in the public gaze more so than the Repton bridge."

Ern wonders how many other prime rail assets have been allowed to fall into disrepair between Sydney and Brisbane.

In contrast, the Repton bridge's rail line, which is part of the North Coast rail line, was maintained regularly, he said.

In 1998, the Rail Access Corporation told The Coffs Coast Advocate the bridge was structurally sound, no holes had been caused by corrosion, and that it was regularly inspected.

There was even a chance it would be painted in the 1998/99 financial year.

Ern Mercer is still waiting.

The ARTC's chief operating officer, Wayne James, said there were 'no problems' with the structural integrity of the Repton rail bridge, and it was assessed to be in 'reasonable to fair condition'.

Following ARTC taking over the lease of the interstate rail network from the NSW Government in September 2004, officials undertook a 'detailed' inspection of the bridge early last year, he said.

"As a result of that assessment, it needs refurbishing work on it in the form of replacement of steel cross members, and painting.

"It is programmed for refurbishment in early to mid 2007. The first stage would be minor repairs to steelwork, and the second stage would be painting."

The Kalang rail bridge is also included in the refurbishment program.



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