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AusLink must not override regional funding: MP

Regional routes are at risk of being neglected in favour of big-ticket AusLink projects, according to a Nationals MP

By Brad Gardner

Regional routes and highways are at risk of being neglected in favour of big-ticket AusLink projects, according to a Nationals MP.

Mark Coulton, who holds the federal seat of Parkes, is concerned the Rudd Government is focussing too much on major highways at the expense of local routes.

Coulton says the Government’s $70 million heavy vehicle package is weighted towards AusLink projects despite the fact many smaller operators use secondary roads. He wants more funding diverted to regional areas to ensure the roads are maintained and there are enough rest areas for drivers.

“We need not forget the minor highways and the other local roads that feed off these highways,” Coulton says.

“The fact is that a lot of these people operate on secondary roads and quite often there is no provision for rest areas.”

He says local highways are plagued by productivity-sapping bottlenecks because tourists, such as grey nomads, travel at slow speeds which force truck drivers to slow to 80km/h on a 100km/h road.

Coulton wants alternative routes constructed to reduce the impact of tourists on local operators.

He commended the Roads to Recovery program for funding key regional routes, but says more needs to be done due to the predicted increase in the freight task.

Coulton also identified cross-border inconsistencies as one area the Government needs to focus more on, saying a streamlined system is vital to ensure the trucking industry is as safe and efficient as possible.

Coulton has criticised the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), which limits road train access in certain areas, such as the Gwydir shire.

He claims road trains bring stock to the Myola feedlot from Queensland and are forced to unhook the trailer when they reach the shire’s boundary despite the fact there is no uncoupling areas.

“Quite often they are parked on the road or the cattle are left in the sun for maybe an hour and a half or two hours while one trailer is emptied and the other one comes back,” Coulton says.

“The lack of uncoupling areas between road train routes and non-road train routes are a big issue.”

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