Western Hwy crashes prompt 'fix it now' calls

A HORROR triple fatality on the Western Highway at Beaufort on Friday night has renewed calls for the duplication of the notorious stretch of the main Melbourne to Adelaide road to be stepped up.Three people from South Australia died at the scene after the crash between a car and a truck about 11pm, 10 kilometres west of Beaufort at Box's Cutting.While work on the $505 million Western Highway upgrade between Ballarat and Stawell began in April this year, the Western Highway Action Committee believes this is not enough.Committee chair Noel Perry said Friday night's triple fatality and other recent crashes highlighted the urgent need for the upgrade of the highway into dual carriageway.Cr Perry believes the state and federal funding for the duplication would result in the works falling 40 kilometres short of Ararat."The $500 million commitment will take the works through until 2014. For the project to be completed to Stawell, another $400 million would be needed," he said. About $9 million is required for each kilometre of the upgrade.Cr Perry said in light of recent major accidents on the highway, the Western Highway Action Committee would be pushing for increased federal and state government funding to finish the project."We need a further commitment of funding to complete the upgrade to Stawell and from Stawell to the (South Australian) border," Cr Perry said.After the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney, the Western Highway is the second busiest in Australia. Between Ballarat and Stawell alone, the road carries between 5100 and 5800 vehicles daily, about a quarter of which are commercial vehicles."When you consider the amount of money Victoria pays in such taxes as fuel excises, which is 25 per cent of the national total, the state only gets back about 15 or 16 per cent for our roads," Cr Perry said.The Ballarat City councillor and representatives from other municipalities in the region last week attended an Australian Local Government Association conference in Western Australia, where federal Opposition transport spokesman Warren Truss made a commitment to meet with them about possible road funding.The initial eight-kilometre stage of the Western Highway upgrade is between Ballarat and Burrumbeet. It begins from the Sunraysia Highway interchange west of Ballarat and will take two years to complete . New Ballarat-bound lanes are being built east of Burrumbeet and the existing highway is being converted to carry west-bound traffic. A new bridge will also be constructed across Burrumbeet Creek. Pyrenees Shire Mayor David Clark said the duplication of the Western Highway could not come soon enough. "The road is reasonably straight, but it cannot handle the heavy volume of traffic and there are not enough quality stops," he said. Ballarat MHR Catherine King said that despite years of inaction on the Western Highway, the Gillard Government was committed to the full duplication of the road .