CAPTAINS Flat is at risk of losing its fuel supply and other vital services after a load limitation was imposed on the bridge that serves as the town’s main access route.
Palerang Council placed a five-tonne limit on the Molonglo River bridge on April 5, after it was deemed structurally unsound, prohibiting trucks and buses from entering the town on Captains Flat Road.
Detours via Hoskinstown Road and Miners Road are unsealed and contain sharp bends, making them difficult for heavy vehicles to use, particularly in wet weather.
Captains Flat service station owner Greg Laidlaw said his current fuel supply was almost exhausted.
‘‘Talking to our supplier, we may be able to get fuel in soon, they’re possibly willing to take the long route round through Braidwood, they’ve got to investigate those sort of options,’’ Mr Laidlaw said.
The service station, which Mr Laidlaw has operated for 11 years, had experienced a 60 to 70 per cent downturn in business since the bridge load limit was imposed.
Mr Laidlaw indicated he may have no choice but to close the service station entirely, which also acts as an agent for Australia Post parcel distribution, Centrelink and banking services.
‘‘It’s made us think, is it worthwhile opening the door, are we going to try again – or do we just close the door and cut our losses and go?’’ Mr Laidlaw said.
Mr Laidlaw said his fuel supplier was assessing the suitability of the alternate access points.
‘‘What [the supplier] did indicate was it would be dry weather access only, not wet weather. So fingers crossed for sunshine for three or four days in a row, we may be able to get a delivery as early as towards the end of next week. But at the moment we’re running on vapours in the tank,’’ Mr Laidlaw said.
Captains Flat Community Association vice president Anita King said residents were also concerned about the gas supply, which provides the town’s main source of heating.
‘‘The Elgas truck, that can’t get through, though it can get through the back [via Hoskinstown Road],’’ Mrs King said.
‘‘The school is a bit worried that they wouldn’t be able to set up the gas tank, and nearly every house has a portable gas tank.’’
Elgas Canberra customer service manager Andrew Cheney said his company remained committed to servicing Captains Flat, although only during dry weather. Mrs King said the Deane’s school bus service could not access the town either, requiring parents to ferry their children to a bus stop two kilometres out of town.
Palerang Council senior engineer (works), Bar y Osmond, acknowledged the inconvenience, but said two independent assessments had reported the bridge’s girders as being in poor condition.
‘‘If we weren’t to do anything, if we weren’t to impose any restrictions or do any action from the report, we’d be pretty negligent,’’ he said.
Palerang Council director of works, Gordon Cunningham, said interim replacement girders were currently being prepared, which would raise the bridge’s weight limit.
‘‘It is my expectation that they would be fabricated and installed within the next few weeks – possibly by the end of May, if not then by June 30,’’ Mr Cunningham said.
He said the cost of a permanent replacement bridge could exceed $2 million, which was outside the financial capacity of Palerang Council. Member for Monaro John Barilaro said he would discuss a more permanent solution with Palerang Council.
‘‘I’m happy to work with [the Council] to see what state contribution or state funding may be available to help Palerang Shire Council to restore that bridge,” Mr Barilaro said.