Roads set to crack under grains pressure

Jo FulwoodCountryman

The picture on the right clearly shows the main reason why country Shires are up in arms over the move to put thousands of extra grain trucks onto regional roads.

Quairading Shire president Darryl Richards said works on the Quairading to York road were completed just three months ago, but already the side strips were cracking under the pressure of too many heavy-haulage trucks.

According to Mr Richards, things will get significantly worse with one of the State's biggest harvest programs looming.

Mr Richards said $10.5 million had been allocated by the State Government to roads in the region, but recent road works on the York road had just been a "political stunt".

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With the closure of the Tier 3 rail from Quairading to York, Mr Richards has estimated there will be more than 8000 extra truck movements in his Shire this harvest.

"It has not been done properly," he said.

"If you look at the Brookton Highway, every time they have done roadworks there they start from scratch, whereas in this case, they have just put a bit of bitumen on the outside of the current bitumen."

Mr Richards said the State Government had done it to get the biggest bang for their buck. "It was the easiest way for them to show people that the government was here spending money on the Quairading road," he said.

Mr Richards said there were no passing lanes on either the Quairading-York road or the Quairading-Cunderdin road, both of which have been earmarked to carry the bulk of the Quairading grain to other receival sites.

He said this was a massive safety concern.

"We raised this issue with Main Roads 10 years ago, and nothing has changed in that time," Mr Richards said.

"You can't put a price on safety - I just hope nothing happens.

"But the chances of something happening are going to increase big time."

Just as concerning is a culvert structure on the Quairading to Cunderdin road the Shire believes may not be able to withstand the regular heavy loads which will be required to move this year's bumper grain crop.

The Shire is now undertaking monthly structural checks to ensure it is coping with the transport load, which Shire chief executive Graeme Fardon said it was never designed to withstand.

"In fact the whole local road network has not been engineered to grain freight standards - they were engineered for seven-tonne trucks," he said. "We are monitoring the structure monthly and if there is any change in the status of the structure, we will notify Main Roads immediately and they will have it re-assessed.

"It could potentially have a seven tonne load limit applied, which would mean no vehicle over seven tonnes would be allowed across it."

Mr Fardon said this would preclude most heavy haulage freight movements on that road.

"There are enough headaches with the Cunderdin-Quairading Road as it is, without this added issue," he said.

Mr Fardon said he would be raising this issue with CBH in coming days.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan said according to the Office of Road Safety, the Wheatbelt already had the highest road fatality rate of any other region, with almost 50 people losing their lives on the roads per 100,000 persons.

"Forcing thousands more trucks onto roads will significantly increase the risk not only in the Wheatbelt, but also on metropolitan roads including Great Eastern Highway through Mundaring and roads leading to the Forrestfield and Kwinana," he said.

The Opposition raised the issue of Tier 3 in Parliament on Tuesday as a matter of public interest.

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