Investment In National Highway Necessary To Save Lives And Money



"It is time for Federal Governments to realise that investment in the National Highway can save lives and money", the Executive Director of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), Lauchlan McIntosh, said today.


This view is supported by a report on the National Highway System (NHS), released by the AAA today.


The report highlights, State by State, the number of fatalities and where they occurred as well as the key priorities for road improvements on the NHS, identified by AAA’s Constituent organisations as one of the keys to saving lives and improving the level of service of the NHS.


The report also provides an overview of aspects of the NHS, including legislation, funding levels and road characteristics.


Key findings of the report are:


  • In 2000, there were 263 fatalities on the National Highway System (NHS), some 14.6 per cent of the total. Yet the NHS carries 14.2 per cent of traffic which suggests that on the basis of traffic volume, the NHS overall was "no safer" than the rest of Australia’s road network. This is surprising given the NHS is the highest order road in the country, and one that we would expect to be safer.
  • Traffic volumes vary significantly between corridors on the NHS. Twenty per cent of the NHS carry 72 per cent of the traffic although the NHS represents only 2.3 per cent of the total Australian network and carries 14.2 per cent of the traffic volume.
  • Better-designed roads, particularly those that separate traffic streams, are significantly safer and cheaper in terms of road trauma for the community. In fact the cost of accidents is five times higher on two-lane narrow roads with unsealed shoulders than it is in four-lane divided roads.
  • According to the Department of Transport and Regional Services, the indicative annual expenditure on the NHS should be $950 million (including $325 million for maintenance). Actual expenditure has fallen well short of the total needs for many years varying from $631m to $786m over the past 6 years.
  • The backlog of expenditure on the National Highways System was $2.6 billion in 1998 and is getting worse.
  • Annual maintenance expenditure is also falling behind the indicative requirement of $325 million. It can be assumed therefore that the NHS is constantly deteriorating. It means the Federal Government is failing to meet its responsibilities to provide a comprehensive, connected NHS.
  • More detailed and timely reporting by the Federal Government of the condition and future investment priorities for the NHS is necessary.
  • An important issue raised by the Australian National Audit Office was that it could find no correlation between the performance indicators, the agreed road conditions to be achieved by the States and the annual funding allocations which are to be provided by the Commonwealth.
  • $920 million was previously identified for the Western Sydney Orbital as part of the National Highway System. Despite this financial commitment in a forward works program, the Federal government has since announced the Western Sydney Orbital will be partly funded by a toll. Motorists are being asked to pay for a road for which they have already provided the funds.


"International comparisons show that Australia’s national highway fatality rates are almost double that for the UK motorway and "A" level roads (outside urban areas). Australia can do better in investment in roads and all infrastructure investment. The recent 2001 Australian Infrastructure Report Card gave national roads a "C" rating" and overall infrastructure at best as "average", Mr McIntosh said. "


Mr McIntosh called on all political parties to commit to investing in a long-term plan to ensure that investment in Australia’s National Highway is made to reduce road trauma to levels commensurate with world best practice.


"Investing in saving lives also means saving money", he said.

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