Grafton Bridge, New South Wales

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Grafton Bridge
View of Grafton Bridge from the north bank of the Clarence River, August 2005
Coordinates 29°41′52.6″S 152°56′31.5″E / 29.697944°S 152.942083°E / -29.697944; 152.942083Coordinates: 29°41′52.6″S 152°56′31.5″E / 29.697944°S 152.942083°E / -29.697944; 152.942083
Carries Motor vehicles, railway line, water supply, pedestrians
Crosses Clarence River
Locale Grafton, New South Wales, Australia
Maintained by Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Government
Design Bascule bridge
Material Steel
Piers in water 7 concrete[1]
Clearance above 38 feet (12 m)[1]
Clearance below 11 feet (3.4 m)[1]
Constructed by NSW Public Works (project manager);[1]
Dorman Long (main contractor)[2]
Construction start 1922 (1922)
Construction end 1932 (1932)
Construction cost £500,000[1]
Inaugurated 19 July 1932 (1932-07-19)[1]

Grafton Bridge is a bascule bridge which spans the Clarence River in Grafton, New South Wales, Australia. It links the main townsite with South Grafton, and carries the North Coast railway line (part of the Sydney–Brisbane rail corridor).

Design and features

Grafton Bridge over the Clarence River showing Bascule span lifted to let shipping through. (Postcard from about 1932; The Southern Cross aeroplane has been added to the photograph).

The upper level of the bridge supports a two way road for traffic via Bent Street (Summerland Way), and its lower level supports a rail bridge that carries the North Coast railway line, a water main, and footbridges on either side.

A bridge over the Clarence River in Grafton was first conceived in 1915. The original design called for a railway bridge with a footway, but in 1922 the design was changed to accommodate vehicular traffic as well. There is provision for a second track across the bridge but at this time it is being used as an easement for a water main. The Grafton Bridge was built by Dorman Long[2] and opened in 1932 by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs.[1][3]

The bascule span was operational from its opening in 1932 until 1969.[4] The bascule can no longer be raised due to an added water main. With the decline in shipping along the Clarence River, the opening span was sealed shut and it can no longer be opened.


Local legend has it that the blind corner on the northern end of bridge is because the roadway across the top of the bridge was originally intended to connect with Pound Street. According to the legend, a local councillor of the time owned a hotel on Fitzroy Street and wouldn't support building the bridge until the design was amended to connect with Fitzroy Street, directing traffic past his establishment, hence the unique kink in the northern roadway ramp. Contemporary news reports suggest that public opinion favoured the Fitzroy St approach eventually chosen, as opposed to a possible Pound St approach, as a matter of cost and so as to direct visitors to Grafton's main street rather than "through a lot of backyards."[5]

Regardless of the truth of the legend, a more practical explanation for the kinks either side of the bridge is that the roadway has to clear the railway line below it, necessitating the bends in the bridge. The bends themselves present something of a dangerous situation for wide vehicles attempting to cross the bridge, and for travellers unaccustomed to the nuisance, which locals navigate at some speed, since the high iron sides of the narrow bridge obscure vision and threaten to prevent traffic flow if encountered by the vehicle. As a result of this, it is often necessary for smaller vehicles to stop prior to the bends to make way for larger vehicles which are unable to negotiate the bends while remaining in their own lane.

Additional crossing of the Clarence River

In 2002, the Government of New South Wales commissioned a study into an additional crossing, released in early 2003.[3]

In October 2008, federal, state and local government representatives inspected the bridge, together with officials from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS). It was claimed that the existing bridge was not coping with the crossing of James Kidd . Estimates of replacing the bridge were in the range of A$100 million.[6] In December 2012, RMS announced that a preferred option of an additional crossing of the Clarence River had been identified and went on public display for comment. RMS also announced that a final decision is expected during 2013.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g McLennan, Maxwell (19 July 1932). "Grafton Bridge: Today's opening". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Grafton Bridge - two tenders received - Dorman Long & Co. Ltd the lower". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 June 1926. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Additional Crossing of the Clarence River: Feasibility Study Report" (PDF). NSW Roads and Traffic Authority. February 2003. ISBN 0731053702. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Hauff, Maria (13 June 2007). "Grafton Bridge turns 75". ABC News. Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  5. ^ "CLARENCE RIVER BRIDGE - ACCESS ON GRAFTON SIDE FITZROY STREET ROUTE CHOSEN". Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 - 1954). Daily Examiner. 9 July 1931. Retrieved 4 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "Funding doubts over second Grafton bridge". ABC News. Australia. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Additional crossing of the Clarence River at Grafton: Recommended preferred option display" (PDF). Community update. Roads and Maritime Services. December 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
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