Renewed call for Augusta Highway upgrades after tragedy
GOVERNMENT failure at state and federal levels to address highly dangerous conditions on the Augusta Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta - the scene for Friday's double fatality head-on truck crash - has been described as "inexcusable”.
The Civil Contractors Federation - South Australia (CCF(SA)) again called into question the lack of action over years to convert the heavily trafficked route into a dual north and south lanes along its full length.
Friday's accident occurred on the single lane both ways about 20 kilometres south of Port Augusta.
"This unfinished major national highway project will just continue to claim lives until it becomes a full four lane corridor,” CCF (SA) chief executive, Mr Phil Sutherland said.
"It is not about politics - it has to be about saving lives, reducing unnecessary road trauma and ensuring this commercial, tourist and regional gateway into Adelaide or all points north, becomes a 'must fix now' priority.
"The overdue upgrade didn't even make it into the country's top ten highest priority funding commitments in February's release by Infrastructure Australia of its main focus.
"Such short-sightedness and lack of understanding as to the very import of this SA highway, is no longer tolerable.”
Mr Sutherland said South Australia and the safety of its road users, are being cheated.
"Why are South Australians being treated with such contempt when it comes to getting better roads?
"More than 500 people have been killed on our State's regional roads alone in the past eight years. The Augusta Highway in particular has been responsible for the deaths of 20 motorists in the past three years, and been responsible for over 60 serious injuries.
"When it comes to Federal Government road funding, SA has 11% of the national road network but receives just 7% of the funding. Infrastructure Australia could help address that short fall.”
The CCF (SA) said its plea to the Federal Government in the lead up to the May 18 election is to give SA a "fair go” when it comes to road funding.
"South Australians deserve much better than what they have been getting. Infrastructure Australia has got it wrong and its assessment process is flawed,” Mr Sutherland said.
"South Australia's road network remains the worst in the nation and was largely built soon after the Second World War to service an entirely different economy. The economy then was much smaller, there were fewer people, the traffic was less, and the vehicles were smaller and lighter.
"What we need is better roads, and the Augusta Highway is top of that list.”
SA Road Transport Association executive officer Steve Shearer told The Advertiser that the double fatality on Good Friday highlighted the need for an ambitious and expensive revamp of Australia's main trucking routes.
"It is high time that all our national highways are locked into a national, federally-funded program to give us separated highways all over this country,” Mr Shearer said.
"God knows we pay enough in fuel excise and other taxation to fund all of the roads.
"But most of the money gets spent in and around towns and on some sections of major highways.”
Mr Shearer acknowledged duplicating national highways would be a vastly expensive project but a vital one that would save many lives if either major party had the courage.
"We know it's a huge ask, we get that,” he said.
"But I have been involved in this industry for 25 years and we were asking back then for this to happen, and we still don't have it. We need a long-term plan, not just some soft promise, but a plan to make separated national highways.”