Fatal crash on notorious road highlights urgency of upgrades

Hardly anything was left of the car after crashing head-on with the bus. Picture: Lachlan Bence.
Hardly anything was left of the car after crashing head-on with the bus. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

The urgent need for road upgrades on notorious stretches of country highway has returned to the spotlight following a horror fatal smash on the Midland Highway.

A man was killed after a head-on crash between a car and a bus at Sulky about 3.20pm on Wednesday. 

Paramedics treated nine people who were travelling on the bus for injuries at the devastating scene, just north of the Midland Highway railway crossing. 

The driver of the bus, who was trapped in the vehicle for more than 40 minutes, and one passenger were airlifted to Melbourne hospitals with serious injuries.

Three other passengers were taken by road ambulance to the Ballarat Base Hospital. 

The male driver of the car died at the scene.

The bus, operated by CDC, appeared to be heading north, while the car was travelling toward Ballarat.

In a statement, Victoria Police said it was believed the car veered onto the wrong side of the road, before colliding with the bus.

A 2.5 kilometre stretch of the highway was closed to traffic between Kennedys Road and Kellys Road.

The horror smash has highlighted the urgency of upgrade works at the notorious road.

Midland Highway has been identified as one of Ballarat’s most dangerous roads, and one of the 20 most dangerous roads across the state. 

It was the site of 19 crashes in the five year period from 2010 to 2015, in which three people were killed and 10 people were seriously injured.

In response, Victorian Roads and Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan announced flexible safety barriers would be installed along 11 kilometres of the Midland Highway between Ballarat and Creswick. 

Work is currently underway widening sections of the road’s shoulder to enable the installation of flexible safety barriers. 

The shoulder of the road between Sulky Road and the railway crossing was widened in April, while work is currently underway between Rose Hill Road and Pistol Club Road.

VicRoads will then commence work between the railway crossing and Jubilee Road.

Mr Donnellan said safety barriers would reduce the chance of serious and fatal accidents.

“We’re investing in flexible safety barriers on the Midland Highway because we know they save lives,” he said.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life and our hearts go out to the victim’s family and friends.” 

We’re investing in flexible safety barriers on the Midland Highway because we know they save lives.

Luke Donnellan, Roads and Road Safety Minister

VicRoads will also introduce wide centreline markings from the Western Freeway to Jubilee Road to provide a safer distance between vehicles travelling in opposite directions. 

Rumble strips will be installed from the Western Freeway to Jubilee Road.

A fatal crash at the Midland Highway and Western Highway interchange in November 2017 prompted the announcement of funding for a roundabout at the Western Highway and Midland Highway interchange.

A roundabout will also be installed at the intersection of Midland Highway and Kennedys Road.

Meanwhile, police at the scene of Wednesday’s fatal crash urged motorists to drive to conditions. 

“The roads aren’t necessarily dangerous, sometimes unfortunately it can be the drivers who are dangerous … it doesn’t matter what the road is, you just have to drive to conditions at the end of the day,” Acting Inspector Deon Townsend-Smith said. 

“A 100km/h zone doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do 100km/h if the road surface is not up to scratch, or it’s wet or it’s muddy.”

Investigations into the cause of the crash are ongoing.