Record harvests, industry growth to strain country roads

Tom ZaunmayrThe West Australian
VideoWA farmers will produce record crops, but the droughts over East will still impact us here in the West.

Concerns about the ability of roads in WA’s agricultural regions to carry another record harvest have been raised in State Parliament

South West MLC Colin Tincknell said with more big crops looming, roads in agricultural regions were in need of maintenance.

“We are on the cusp of economic growth and it is important to understand that we cannot reap the full benefit of this economic growth, unless we have proper road and transport infrastructure right across this state,” he said.

“It looks like it could be a $6 billion crop, but that will create an enormous amount of responsibility on the industry, the transport network and the roads and infrastructure,

“This raises the question of the capability of a crumbling road network in the Wheatbelt... which has to handle 350 000 truck movements from farms to Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd bin sites over a three-month period and 100 000 road train loads to the port.”

Livestock and Rural Transport Association WA president Andy Jacob said the government had done a good job fixing arterial roads, but more could be done to improve safety.

“There are thousands of kilometres of regional roads that are bloody good,” he said.

“In regional and road development funding projects we would love to see extra safety bays put in with all projects.

“With heavier and bigger vehicles we need more space to get them off the roads to give drivers a bit of sleep.”

Mr Jacob said there were many areas where drivers could face travelling more than 40 kilometres to find a parking bay to inspect any issues on their trucks.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the State Government had been spending big on road networks.

“If we look at road maintenance in the last year of the previous government, the actual expenditure, which was a bit higher than the budget expenditure, was roughly $361 million,” she said.

“In our budget, and, indeed, in our actual expenditure, last year, we took that figure up to $438 million.

“In a state such as this, covering a third of a continent and with only 2.5 million people, obviously road infrastructure under any government will always be a struggle, and we need to deal with it.”

Ms MacTiernan said 70 per cent of the road funding had been spent on regional road maintenance.

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