Rocla expands in Cairns for major highway upgrade

Rocla has reaffirmed its leading role in North Queensland by supplying all the precast bridge and culvert components for a major upgrade of the Bruce Highway between Townsville and Cairns.

The $128 million federally funded project provides flood mitigation for the most flood-prone spot on the Bruce Highway, from Tully township south to Corduroy Creek.

Upgrading includes 15.5km of new road, with a total of 700 metres of bridges and 72 major multi-cell culverts. The works include new bridges over the Tully River, Murray River, Lagoon Creek and Corduroy Creek, plus overflow bridges near the Tully River and Lagoon Creek and a cane rail overpass.

Although it is not economically viable to completely flood-proof the highway, the project will significantly reduce flooding disruptions on the Bruce Highway between Cairns and Townsville, which can be closed for several days in the wet season or even weeks during a severe season.

Approaches to the Tully River bridge, which are the most susceptible to flooding, will be 1.5 metres higher, while other sections of the highway will be raised by 0.7m. The new 175-metre bridge over the Tully River is wider and a metre higher than the old one.

Queensland Main Roads formed an alliance with Maunsell AECOM (engineering), BMD Major Projects (earthworks) and Albem Operations (construction), called The Tully Alliance, to deliver the project.

Rocla won the contract to supply all the precast structural components, which includes:

  • 10,300 tonnes of prestressed bridge deck units
  • 5600 tonnes of prestressed piles in lengths up to 40m
  • 21,500 tonnes of large concrete box culverts

The box culvert order alone requires the manufacture of 5500 individual crown units, the majority 3600mm or 2400mm in width. Some of the individual culverts on the highway include up to 170 crown units, with the largest 3600mm wide by 3600mm high.

Tully Alliance Manager, John Smith, said the project was one of the largest road improvement projects ever outside South-East Queensland. 

“Rocla, as a major subcontractor, was an integral part of the project,” John said, “and worked closely with us to meet our goals. The milestones were altered several times, usually to advance the program, and Rocla worked very hard to accommodate our requirements on each occasion,” he said. To meet the supply requirements, Rocla invested more than $1 million in infrastructure to upgrade its Cairns facility, including a new factory building and new box culvert moulds. The new building had to be constructed and brought on stream in only four months, and the Cairns workforce had to be increased almost fourfold in three months.

Rocla Area Manager, Russell Lawrence, said the new investment in the Cairns plant reflected the long association between Rocla and Queensland Main Roads Northern Region, which extended over more than 70 years.

“We view our relationships with our customers as partnership arrangements that benefit both parties,” Russell said.

“The investment in new plant benefits Main Roads by allowing us to meet their project requirements,” he said, “and growing our infrastructure makes us better prepared to meet the growth demands of all our North Queensland customers in the region in the future.”

The Tully Alliance project was originally planned to be completed by June 2009 but is on track for early completion in December 2008, weather permitting.