WE ALL know the state of country roads in Victoria is bad but when a former chairman and CEO of Vicroads of almost 20 years, Colin Jordan, goes public with such comments, our MPs better stand up and take notice.
On the eve of the closure of public submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Vicroads’ Management of Country Roads (Monday, January 15), Mr Jordan wrote with “dismay” in the Age last Thursday after a trip in the country.
“As a former chairman and chief executive of Vicroads I write with dismay about the state of Victorian roads and the ominous warning signs that abound. Several recent trips on major roads throughout Victoria showed that heavily potholed roads, reduced speed sections, weed and rubbish-strewn verges have become the norm for an organisation that apparently no longer has sufficient regard for the travelling public,” Mr Jordan said.
“Worse still there are all too frequent signs of neglected structural failure of pavements. Lengths of wire-rope barriers hand loosely by the roadside unrepaired, clearly no longer capable of contributing to a safe road environment.”
On a subsequent ABC Radio interview he said road maintenance funding from government had been cut by 40 per cent and while there had been some lift in funding in recent years, the maintenance schedule had fallen woefully behind.
It’s a message that rings true to South Gippsland Shire Councillor Andrew McEwen.
“I’m originally from South Australia as you know and I go back a long time to when I used to come across and visit in Victoria on a regular basis and there was always an appreciable lift in the standard of Victoria’s roads once you crossed over,” Cr McEwen said.
“Victoria used to have the best roads in Australia but not anymore. South Australian roads are better now.
“But there has been a real deterioration in standards in the past 10 years or so as both parties have redirected funding away from road maintenance. There were some increases under Peter Ryan and so on but it hasn’t got back to what it was.
“My concern is that they need to put sufficient funding into country roads in particular to make them safe and they’re simply not doing that.
“And I’m talking about Vicroads here.
“As a shire we’re doing pretty well. We’ve achieved a high level of asset renewal because we make that a priority.
“You’ve simply got to do the maintenance each year or else, down the track, you’re looking at total reconstruction at a serious cost. It’s false economy.”
Cr Andrew McEwen said if the South Gippsland Shire hadn’t made a submission to the inquiry it should and he would be contacting the office this week.
Stop press: Director of Development Services at the shire, Anthony Seabrook, was contacted by Cr McEwen, through the appropriate channels and responded that “his team is reviewing the four elements of this inquiry and currently drafting a response with a view to a submission being made on Monday”.
Rural toll up
Ironically, during the week, Acting Minister for Roads and Road Safety Philip Dalidakis joined representatives from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), VicRoads and Victoria Police to reflect on road trauma in Victoria in 2017.
While the overall toll was down 35 for the year to 255, the number of deaths on country roads increased.
Acting Minister Dalidakis said the government was investing $1.1 billion in safer road infrastructure and road policing through its Towards Zero Action Plan, which aims to reduce the number of lives lost on our roads to fewer than 200 and cut the number of serious injuries by 15 per cent by 2020.
“This work will continue in 2018, with a focus on regional roads where Victorians are four times more likely to be killed and 40 per cent more likely to be seriously injured. While overall road deaths were down in 2017, the number of people killed on regional roads increased slightly to 151,” he said.
“The Government will continue to roll out its $340 million program to install life-saving infrastructure such as flexible safety barriers along Victoria’s 20 highest-risk roads. Barriers are expected to reduce the number of head-on and run-off-road crashes by 85 per cent, and have been installed or are currently being installed on 12 roads, with work to continue in 2018.
But it’s more money for road maintenance, not funding for more wire-rope barriers that’s needed.
Even though the date for submissions to the country roads maintenance inquiry closed yesterday, a spokesperson for the Committee Secretariat said late submissions would be accepted if arrangements were made via email at email@example.com or by phoning 03 8682 2846.
A report is due to be tabled in State Parliament by June 30, 2018.
The Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee is examining a number of issues as part of its inquiry, including VicRoads’ effectiveness, the existing funding model and lack of consultation with regional communities.
“This is an important inquiry for communities across Victoria who rely on well-maintained country roads in the conduct of their daily lives,” said Committee Chair Geoff Howard.
“We encourage people and organisations in regional Victoria to contribute to our inquiry by making a submission to the Committee.”
As part of the inquiry’s terms of reference, the Committee is looking into the option of creating a specific Country Roads organisation and a separate Metropolitan Roads body.
Former Vicroads chairman Colin Jordan didn’t think this was a priority. The problem he said was partly a lack of funding, partly a lack of care for road users and partly the result of decline in the professional capability of road maintenance managers.