A couple of initiatives this week are going to improve the infrastructure on which much East/West road freight depends. The new spending is part of the promises made in the lead up to the last election, part of the process of making PM, Tony Abbott, the ‘infrastructure Prime Minister’.
Two road improvement spending commitments have been made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Warren Truss. These include the $24.5 million to be spent, along with the Queensland Government, on the Outback Way across the middle of Australia and $42.2 million as part of a $67.1 million to be spent improving the Great Eastern Highway between Walgoolan and Coolgardie in Western Australia.
The investment in the Great Eastern Highway has been long needed as the resources boom and consequent increased freight task has taken its toll on the road. The improved freight transport times will be possible with an improved road, which will include more overtaking possibilities, on a road where oversize loads disrupt the normal long distance East/West freight traffic.
The improvements planned for the Outback Way offer other possibilities. The route of the road, from Winton in Queensland to Laverton in WA, opens up a new shorter East/West route for road freight. The project has been the subject of a long campaign from Central Australia, to improve communications across the heart of the continent. The latest package of funds is to be spent on the Queensland section of the Outback Way, but is part of a larger national spending plan for $33 million from the federal government.
The route of the Outback Way is 2800 km in length, currently, 1700km of unsealed gravel road and 1100km of bitumen. This project aims to make the entire route bitumen and seven metres wide. Opening the road up will have the effect of reducing the freight route from Cairns to Perth by 1600 km.