For almost a century, this bridge has caused traffic chaos. Welcome to the saga that is Montague Street Bridge.
View on Youtube: https://youtu.be/HR7NivKqfzo
[Julian] Great cities have great bridges, and Melbourne is no exception. This is Montague Street Bridge, and it's famous and loved by Melburnians known as Monty. Now Monty is known for one thing.
[Reporter] Breaking news now, and yet another truck has fallen foul of the infamous Montague Street Bridge in South Melbourne.
[Reporter] Another day, another truck under that awful bridge, that infamous bridge.
[Reporter] It looks like a removal's van has crashed into the Montague Street Bridge.
[Reporter] The Montague Street Bridge.
[Reporter] The notorious Montague Street Bridge.
[Reporter] Montague Street Bridge
[Reporter] More than a 100 vehicles have smashed into the overpass in the past six years alone.
[Julian] Now, that is a staggering number of incidents for what looks like a standard rail bridge. So I wanted to understand how this came to be and how this particular bridge became such a large feature of Melbourne life.
Built in 1914, the bridge was built for the railway line, which connected port Melbourne to the city And trains ran over this bridge until the 1980s, when the line was converted into light rail, and now it hosts the 109 tram.
Now it's no exaggeration to say that many people have fallen in love with the saga, that is the Montague Street Bridge. Timeout named at the second best bridge in the city. It has its own fan and Twitter page. He has its own beer and it regularly stars in local radio.
[Radio Host] No, I mean this guy is a triple threat. I mean, he's going in with a rental van and come out with a convertible. This is a Melbourne hero.
[Julian] And here, let's have a look at it's Google maps page. And I can assure you that if you don't know, that is a lot of reviews for a suburban rail bridge. And you'll also note that it has a website. https://howmanydayssincemontaguestreetbridgehasbeenhit.com/. And I think this is my favourite piece of fan creative content for the bridge.
But I wanted to know, how did we get here? How did this particular bridge become a site for so many accidents and why are they still happening?
So when it was built, the Montague Street Bridge was actually taller. And what happened, is that in the first couple of decades of last century, this area here would regularly flood and people couldn't actually travel through here and access the railway station. So what they did in the 1930s is actually raised the ground up right here by about two feet. And what that did is of course made this area less prone to flooding, but it made the distance from the road to the bridge shorter. But I really wanted to understand this for myself.
So on a gray afternoon, I plugged the address into Google Maps. I noted that it had been 11 days without an incident and headed across. And just looking at it, it does look like any other rail bridge, perhaps with the only clue that something's unusual is a sign that says what to do in case of an emergency.
VicRoads, the government's road agency claimed there's plenty of signage. And I wanted to see that for myself. And it's true. They did put up a warning sign here, here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here here and here. Although to be fair, this one does have a tree that's covering it. That's a lot of signs, and about the signs, the road minister said this to the media.
"You've really got to be a dickhead in ignoring every sign to hit a bridge." And I think this is why people respond more with schadenfreude than with outrage. This is not a neglected piece of road. You really do need to miss a lot of warnings before you knock the top off your truck. But I don't think this explains why this bridge keeps getting hit. But I think this map gives some clues. It shows the height of the overpasses in the inner city of Melbourne. And you can see that the Montague Street Bridge is lower than any other bridge in this area.
And let's have a look at this couple of incidents. You can see here and here, hire vans and hire trucks. So here's my theory. Drivers do know how high the bridges is. They just don't have any idea how high their vehicles are. Renters, new drivers. These are people that are probably driving the vehicle for the first and maybe only time. And they just happened to choose one of the few roads where this is an issue.
But of course, that doesn't stop the issue. So in 2016, the Victorian government responded by installing this. Now this is a gantry and the pedals are the same height as the bridge itself. Yes. Now it wasn't just signs. It was time for something physical, costing, $800,000. These barriers would let drivers know that they would not make it under the bridge. Premier named it Gandalf the Gray. It got not one but two feuding Twitter accounts. And this was it. This was the last option to solve it once and for all.
[Media] This gantry and these big rubber bollards gives them quite a message that they're in the wrong place.
[Premier] Make no mistake. The Montague Street Bridge is pure evil, if anyone manages to get stuck under this thing, after that, well, I give up.
[Julian] So had they done it, the road engineers, the government, the Premier, or would this random truck driver be correct?
[Driver] I think it's a great idea, but if the rubber like I pointed out, I don't think they're gonna make much difference.
[Julian] And I really think, you know, the answer.
[Reporter] A truck has hit the Montague Street Bridge for the first time since new preventative gantries were installed last month.
[Driver] I can't get out, it's a totally , I lost my job.
[Reporter] You lost you job?
[Driver] Not really, just kidding.
[Julian] As the Premier said, there is not many more options. Sydney has an amazing system that detects oversize vehicles and projects a stop sign on a wall of water but if putting rubber on a stick cost almost a million dollars, I have no idea how much that would cost.
But enough of this and back to the bridge, I'm not joking. I've just turned around and there's a vehicle that's stuck right now.
Yes. I had timed my visit with an actual collision. Now, by now I'd seen the sign I knew what to do in an emergency. He's got himself stuck so I'm gonna call triple 0 for him now.
I'm at the Montague Street Bridge and there's...
So I was on the phone to emergency services, watching the driver try to make his way out. I gave my details to the police and he freed himself, he's driving off, hoping he wouldn't get fired, no doubt. And the police were quick on the scene. So was Yarra Tram to do an inspection of the bridge. The police mostly thought it was funny that I was there to research this issue and watch the incident happen. And of course, the bridge passed inspection. It's been almost a century of truck crashes. And to be honest, I think it might be a century more.
If you do go and visit the bridge, I urge you to bring your phone so you can report any incidents. And by that, I of course mean to: https://howmanydayssincemontaguestreetbridgehasbeenhit.com/
Thanks for watching. I'm Julian O'Shea, and I'm doing a series on the untold stories of Melbourne and beyond. So subscribe to see more.
[Driver] Never come this way bro, it's ****ed.