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April 23, 2010

The Nationals are aiming to build community pressure in the fight to reduce the road toll on the Princes Highway east of Sale.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and candidate for Gippsland East Tim Bull are working in partnership to highlight the need for increased government funding to improve safety on the notorious stretch of road.

They have launched a petition which calls on the Federal Government to make the road eligible for Federal funding in a bid to provide more overtaking lanes, improved road shoulders and more rest areas.

Accident statistics released late last year confirmed the Princes Highway east as the state’s riskiest highway. From April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2009, there were 314 reported crashes. During the same period, every other major highway in Victoria reported less than 220 crashes.

Mr Bull is the principal petitioner of the petition which will be presented in Federal Parliament later this year by Mr Chester.

“Too many people are being killed and injured on the Princes Highway east. Many sections of the road between Sale and the NSW border are in poor condition and I believe the road should be recognised under the National Road Network,” Mr Chester said.

“It is an issue that I have raised directly with the Transport Minister over the past 18 months but he has refused to take any action.

“There have been 28 deaths east of Sale in the past six years and there is no question that improving the safety of the road environment is a significant factor in reducing the road toll.”

Mr Bull said the petition would be distributed widely and would be available for signing at community events including the East Gippsland Field Days.

“We don’t expect instant results from the Minister but if we can collect several thousand signatures it will highlight the depth of community concern about highway funding,” Mr Bull said.

“East Gippsland has some of the fastest growing areas in the state as well as becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. It is important that infrastructure keeps pace with the region’s increasing popularity and growth.

“Research clearly indicates that investing money on roads is critical to reducing the road toll. This is a matter of safety for those who reside here and those who visit.”

Under the current funding framework the Federal Government does provide funding for the Princes Highway between Sale and Melbourne but the State Government has sole responsibility in the eastern part of the region.

The duplication of the highway between Sale and Traralgon has attracted $140m in Federal Government funding as well as $35 million from the State Government.

“I have strongly supported the first stage of duplication works between Sale and Traralgon and will continue to lobby the State and Federal Governments for further stages to improve safety,” Mr Chester said.

“The Federal Government has a role to play in providing additional funding for the highway and road toll statistics demand urgent action.”

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