NSW Government fails to include rest areas as part of Hume upgrade

By: Jason Whittaker

The New South Wales Government has ignored the construction of new rest areas as part of the Hume Highway upgrade

The New South Wales Government has ignored the construction of new rest areas as part of the Hume Highway upgrade because of a technicality under AusLink funding arrangements.

Phillip Halton from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) revealed during the 2008 Australian Trucking Convention he was unaware any new rest areas were to be built as part of the more than 200km Hume Highway duplication package to be finished by 2009.

According to the AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005, of which funding for the project stems from, states are required to draw up the plans and hand them to the Federal Government for approval.

But there is no mention of rest areas under the legislation, only that states must ensure any upgrade improves the standard of the road.

This, according to a government source, means NSW can get away with limiting upgrades to the road.

"Whether it is penny pinching or blindness, the roads stop at the white line," he says.

"They don’t fit in the rest areas unless they are made to."

He says the Federal Government must stipulate provision for rest areas to stop states from shirking their responsibility by way of a technicality.

"In the future when we are building a national highway system we need to make sure that the definition of what is being paid for includes rest areas," the source says.

And in another blow for the industry, Jill Lewis from the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says the current six rest stops on the Hume Highway may be abolished under the lane duplication process.

"If some of those truck stops are on single lane highways then there is a possibility that we may lose them," she says.

Lewis has written to Halton to seek clarification as to whether the State Government will construct new rest areas and whether the current ones are in danger of being scrapped.

ATA NSW is calling for the RTA to establish a website to inform drivers of rest area locations, their size, whether they are suitable for all truck types and if they will have basic amenities such as toilets and running water.

But in writing the letter, Lewis tells ATN the Government will not be able to build new rest areas on the Hume to coincide with fatigue management laws to be introduced on September 29.

Despite this, NSW has removed the provision that permits drivers to travel an extra 30 minutes beyond their allotted driving time if they can’t find an adequate rest area to stop.

As such, Lewis is pushing the Government to at least install a grace period in light of the decision to include rest areas in the upgrade of the Hume Highway.
The RTA has yet to reply to ATN’s questions, with a spokeswoman declining to comment on whether states are responsible for the provision of rest areas when upgrading roads.

The Government’s refusal to build new rest areas comes months after a report found the majority of stops failed to meet national guidelines or provide basic amenities such as toilets or running water.

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