06/08/2013 - 07:06

Road trip pinch points near big smoke

06/08/2013 - 07:06

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If a political leader in election mode was looking for a sensible road project to fund, they could offer to improve the key industrial exit roads heading north out of Perth.

Road trip pinch points near big smoke

If a political leader in election mode was looking for a sensible road project to fund, they could offer to improve the key industrial exit roads heading north out of Perth.

A recent holiday to the Pilbara took me in and out of Perth by two different routes and highlighted how deficient these northern highways are at their busiest points – where they get close to the metropolitan area.

Last month I travelled both the Great Northern and North West Coastal highways, as well as the Brand Highway between Geraldton and Perth.

The last 100 kilometres of the Brand Highway coming into Perth were the most treacherous, albeit in conditions unfavourable for the driver.

We drove that section on the stormy Tuesday night of July 16 during which there were some fierce squalls and considerable rain. We chose the Brand rather than the more scenic tourist route via Cervantes because the weather was likely to be worse on that stretch, given it hugs the coast so closely.

The challenge on the Brand that evening was the truck traffic coming the other way. There was a feeling of déjà vu from last year’s return to Perth from Mount Augustus under similar conditions, with individual and groups of trucks and road trains passing us every minute or so heading in the opposite direction.

The road is relatively narrow and rain has much more impact on visibility when it is coming back up off the road from the tyres of a semi-trailer.

Anyone who has done country miles in regional WA knows what it is like when a road-train goes past you on a tight stretch of road. Add in some wild weather and wet road and you’ll get the picture.

But that was more an issue with the conditions, with the nasty weather keeping most of the cars heading our way off the road.

Probably of greater concern was the narrow road leading out of Bindoon, where we had breakfasted on the first day of our trip north at the sensational Bakehaus after an early start to beat the peak hour Perth traffic.

This section of the Great Northern Highway is windy and, given the amount of heavy traffic, particularly dangerous due to the absence in many places of a hard shoulder. There’s simply no room for error when overtaking or dealing with wide loads coming in the opposite direction.

Given we took on this section in otherwise perfect conditions for driving, it was probably a more disappointing encounter than the return run down the Brand Highway because the issues could not be avoided easily by choosing to drive at a different time. Passing big trucks, especially with frequent wide loads, in both directions was challenging for us, even in a powerful vehicle and plenty of experience on Western Australia’s regional roads.

The state’s north is worth a visit – including Karijini National Park in which we spent two of our six days – but for both tourists and the transport industry we need to be careful about the roads taken to get there, which involves an interaction between the public and industry.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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