On the 15th October, 1970, during its third year of construction, the Westgate Bridge collapsed killing 35 men. The section of the bridge that collapsed was a 128 meter span that was being worked on at the time. A royal commission was held to find what caused this disaster. It was found to be a critical engineering decision which was not handled correctly. This was due to poor communication between joint engineering companies contractors. If their indifferences and lack of communication was handled more professionally and ethically, Australia’s most devastating workplace disaster may have never of occurred.
The first time that a bridge was considered to cross the Yarra River was as early as 1957 to replace the Williamstown ferry service. Between then and 1961, there was lots of discussion, up until the Lower Yarra Crossing Company was founded. Discussions with the government about a new bridge across the Yarra River were held, but not much was agreed upon, until 1965, the Lower Yarra Crossing Company went bankrupt, and thus emerged the Lower Yarra Crossing Authority, whom in 1967 entered into an agreement with Melbourne based Maunsell & Partners, as well as London based Freema...
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...they were not supplying design calculations and other data when required.
The disaster which occurred on the 15th of October 1970 and the tragedy of the 35 deaths was utterly unnecessary. That it should have been allowed to happen was inexcusable. There was no sudden onslaught of natural forces, or no sudden failure of new or untested material.
The reasons for the collapse are to be found in the acts and omissions of those entrusted with building a bridge of a new and highly sophisticated design.
The West Gate Bridge stands out as one the most immediately recognisable landmarks in the Melbourne skyline. For some, a symbol of economic progress linking the City with its industrial heartland, but for others it serves as a constant reminder of the avoidable, tragic sequence of events that led to the worst workplace disaster in Australian history
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