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May 27, 2011

The failure of the Federal Government to heed community concerns and provide funding to improve the safety of the Princes Highway east of Sale has been brought to the attention of Federal Parliament.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester this week told Parliament that the Princes Highway east of Sale has one of the highest accident and fatality rates in Victoria.

Mr Chester has been working in conjunction with State Member for Gippsland East Tim to highlight the urgent need for improvements in road safety along the 310 kilometre stretch of highway.

Together the MPs have collected over 1000 signatures on a petition calling on the Federal Government to add the highway to the National Road Network which would enable Federal funding to flow for safety upgrades.

“The stretch of highway I am talking about has one of the highest accident and fatality rates in Victoria,” Mr Chester said.

“Hardly a month goes by without a fatality…I am not saying every accident is a result of the condition of the road, but there is no question that it is a contributing factor to the high accident and fatality rates.

“I have tabled petitions from my community, which reflects the level of concern throughout the broader Gippsland region.  I have also raised it directly with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

“In addition to the petition, which is still out there gathering signatures, our view is being supported by the local chambers of commerce.”

Mr Chester said that too much of the current debate about highway funding east of Sale is based on anecdotal evidence.

“From my previous discussions with regional VicRoads staff, there does not seem to be a long-term plan in place for the staged upgrade of even the most basic safety features such as shoulder sealing, more overtaking lines, realignment of dangerous corners and improvements to the road surface,” Mr Chester said.

“There needs to be a complete safety audit with a view towards developing a 10-year strategy so the Federal Government can then buy into it and take responsibility for parts of the road that need to be upgraded.”

Mr Chester also extended an invitation to the State and Federal Ministers responsible to come to Gippsland and inspect the Princes Highway east of Sale.

“There is a real opportunity here for both the State and the Federal Road Ministers to work in partnership with my community,” Mr Chester said.

“I have been working with my local State MP, Tim Bull, in relation to this matter and just recently we both wrote a letter to the State Minister seeking support to fund a safety audit and the development of a 10-year strategy.

“I invite both the State and the Federal Road Ministers to come to Gippsland, take a firsthand look at the road and see for themselves the risks that our motorists are faced with on a daily basis.”

Anyone wishing to download the “Fix Our Highway” petition can do so online at www.darrenchester.com

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