Time to actually invest in country roads
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Time to actually invest in country roads

People on country roads are being killed at almost four times the rate than those on city roads. Based on a five-year average, Victoria’s rural road network is responsible for 151 deaths per year.

I’m sure we would all agree that this number is simply too high.

In its Towards Zero road safety strategy and action plan, the current State Government sets an ambitious target of less than 200 deaths on Victorian roads by 2020. I agree this is a great intention and fully support it, but don’t necessarily agree with all the strategies outlined to get there.

The current Roads and Roads Safety Minister, along with the Premier, have issued statements saying they will reduce the speed limits on country Victorian roads to make travel safer.

I have no issue with this occurring in some locations that have a long accident history, but my problem is that this government is reducing limits in a number of locations while having severely cut investment into our roads network.

For proof, let’s have a direct look at this State Government’s Budget papers.

In the last budget delivered by the Coalition Government (2014), the Road Asset Management Budget was $486.4 million. Last year it dropped to $419m and next year is $440m – still well below the 2014 figures and a cut over the two years of $113.8m.

Then we move to the Road Operations and Network Improvements Budget, it has a reduction of $194.8m over the past two years on what the level was in 2014.

So in these two areas alone we have seen a cut of just under a third of a billion dollars ($307m) in the past two years in budgets that service country Victorian roads.

In Parliament’s last sitting week, we had our local Labor Upper House member, Harriet Shing, state:

“I refer to the parlous state of roads in the Eastern Victoria Region and in Gippsland, which have in and of themselves contributed more than their fair share of fatalities, serious injuries and near misses in the area.” – Ms Shing 7 June 2016.

To have our Labor member saying how bad the condition of our roads are, while they’ve had large cuts to the budgets that service rural roads, is truly concerning. A good call would be to call on the Government to reinstate the money.

As stated, I am happy for speed limits to be reviewed and altered to make travel safer in areas where there is a long history of accident rates.

However, I don’t think it is fair that country Victorians be forced to drive at lower speed limits on a large number of roads ¬– meaning it takes longer for us to get to work each day, drive to our children’s sporting commitments at the weekend and transporting food, when funding has been cut and less work is being done.

Reinstating that funding should be the first step this Government takes in its Towards Zero campaign.

Friday, June 17, 2016