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January 20, 2012

Increased government funding is required to improve safety levels on the Princes Highway throughout Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley, according to Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester.

The local MP’s campaign for increased funding has been given a boost with the latest safety data indicating that the highway in Gippsland poses a greater risk than many other parts of the state.

AusRAP’s (Australian Road Assessment Program) Rating Australia’s National Network for Risk report has identified the Princes Highway east between Warragul and Sale as having a high collective risk rating. The Rosedale to Sale section was also recognised in the report as one of the worst links in the state.

But the far eastern section of the highway, from Sale to the New South Wales border was not assessed, despite the fact that it has one of the worst accident and fatality rates in Victoria.

Mr Chester is continuing to lobby the Federal Government to include the entire stretch of Princes Highway on the National Road Network, making it eligible for Commonwealth funding and urgent safety improvements.

“Under the current arrangements the Federal Government does not provide funding for the highway east of Sale and it is an issue which I have raised in Federal Parliament and have spoken with the Transport Minister directly about,” Mr Chester said.

“If the section of highway was included in the network there would be opportunities to apply for funding to reduce the safety risks associated with sections of the road that have poor shoulders, a lack of overtaking lanes, insufficient rest areas and accident blackspots.”

Mr Chester said the results of the AusRAP report highlighted the safety risk of the Princes Highway east between Traralgon and Sale. However he stressed that the current Traralgon-Sale duplication upgrade would help to improve safety in some sections between the two destinations when it was completed.

The Federal Government has committed $140 million to duplication works with the State Government allocating $35 million but the total project is expected to cost more than $450 million.

“The results of the AusRAP report are concerning for local motorists and visitors to our region,” Mr Chester said.

“Duplication works which are currently underway in sections between Traralgon and Sale should help to improve safety in the future.

“However, the current level of funding which is being provided by the Federal and State Governments will not complete the project and commitments will be required in future budget deliberations.”

Mr Chester said research clearly indicated that investing money on roads was critical to reducing the road toll.

“Enforcement measures and education campaigns directed at improving driver behaviour are important but we need a holistic approach to road safety,” Mr Chester said.

“We need drivers, particularly young people, driving the safest possible cars on roads which have been built to the safest standard possible so that one mistake doesn’t have to be fatal.

“Investing in safer road infrastructure will deliver long-term economic and social benefits that will outweigh the initial costs to governments.”

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