27/09/2005 - 22:00

Woodhams’ point a road worth travelling

27/09/2005 - 22:00

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I don't normally pick up on issues raised by politicians campaigning for their slice of the funding pie, but I was intrigued by the efforts of Greenough MLA Grant Woodhams who raised the vision of the Indian Ocean Drive in State Parliament last week.

I don't normally pick up on issues raised by politicians campaigning for their slice of the funding pie, but I was intrigued by the efforts of Greenough MLA Grant Woodhams who raised the vision of the Indian Ocean Drive in State Parliament last week.

Many of you will remember Mr Woodhams well from his work as a television weather presenter, but these days he is more likely to be pestering Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan about roads in his electorate – most specifically the planned link from Lancelin to Cervantes.

Mr Woodhams believes the current timetable, planning to start construction in 2007, should be brought forward.

Well, he has my support on this one, especially if the current plan is delayed even further.

I have long felt that despite being blessed with beaches and magical coastline, Western Australia lacks the roads (or railways) that take advantage of this natural beauty.

I have driven much of WA’s coast, or as near to it as you can get (the family wagon is yet to negotiate the Esperance-Albany route), and cannot recall a major route that has as much connectivity between the sea and roadway as the impressive drive between Cervantes and Dongara.

It may not be Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, but it was a great relief to take this route on a recent trip to Kalbarri and avoid a stretch of monotonous inland highway, of which WA has more than its fair share and which is shared with the road trains and commercial traffic of a busy resources state.

However, to take this route at present requires a major deviation, which would discourage all but the most leisurely of travellers

Importantly, Cervantes is home to one of the state’s most recognised tourist attractions and one of the few true day-trip opportunities from Perth – the Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park.

I was staggered how much extra driving is required to get from central Perth to the Pinnacles because the current route allows access only from the Brand Highway about 60 kilometres inland from the coast.

I’d conservatively estimate this adds about 200km to the round trip, or about two hours of driving, making it a hefty day’s travelling on a good day of about 500km.

As popular as it is, even the most hardy of tourists must baulk at the time required to get there and back – partly spent driving out to Midland or east out of Joondalup to connect with the Brand Highway before turning back to Cervantes and then, finally, heading south to the Pinnacles themselves. All of this, of course, must be repeated in reverse (not literally) on the return journey.

Having recently travelled this route myself, I know that the Brand Highway south of Cervantes becomes less monotonous, but the scenery gain is negated by the hassle of being caught behind trucks negotiating the windy track.

Instead, a route that hugs the coast from Lancelin (after coming straight up the freeway or driving up the West Coast Highway) would slice hours and cost from the travel, take tourists away from commercial traffic and open up the northern coast for tourism development, just like the south.

Such a development would, of course, be of enormous benefit to the residents of Geraldton and the Mid-West by drawing more people to the region it services.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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