A crucial section of the Augusta Highway - one of South Australia’s most critical road freight routes linking the State to vital interstate and overseas markets - needs to be urgently upgraded at a cost of more than $1.5 billion.
The call has been made today by the influential Civil Contractors Federation of SA (CCF SA) in welcoming the public announcement by SA Labor Opposition Leader, Mr Peter Malinauskas, that the duplication of the Augusta Highway should be put forward by the SA Government as a project to be consideration for priority Federal funding by Infrastructure Australia.
For years, the CCF (SA) has been calling on both the Federal and SA Governments to make the upgrade of National Highway A1 – between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta – the highest of priorities. Since 2015 that section of road has seen close to 400 traffic accidents resulting in 70 serious casualties and 30 fatalities.
“The road between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta is an absolute disgrace for a national highway, and well below the standard you expect in a first world economy,” Civil Contractors Federation of SA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Phil Sutherland, said today.
“It beggars’ belief that this section of National Highway A1 - also called the Augusta Highway – remains in such a dilapidated state given its crucial link to the national road system,” he said.
“Inexplicably, upgrading and duplicating this sub-standard section of highway – which forms part of a nationally significant freight corridor, and is integral to the National Freight and Supply Chain - does not even appear on the Infrastructure Australia’s Priority funding list.
“A far better road will facilitate and encourage the growth of Whyalla and better support the Cultana Military Base at a time when National security warrants it.
“It is fantastic to see the current upgrade to the bridge at Pt Augusta and cleaning up the traffic congestion at Pt Wakefield. Now is the ideal opportunity to build a modern road between those heavily trafficked two points.
National Highway A1 is a network of highways that circumnavigate Australia, joining all mainland state capitals. At a total length of about 14,500 km, it is among the longest national highways in the world.
The section of highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta is a meagre two lane road – despite being a major transport and freight corridor connecting Adelaide to the north of South Australia and carrying a large and increasing volume of car and heavy transports, including military traffic, oversize combinations and mass vehicles in the B-Doubles, B-Triples and road train categories.
The highway north of Port Wakefield is comprised of narrow bridges and a railway level crossing. The road surface condition features degraded road shoulders and verges, roughness and rutting of the road surface, and is generally a patchwork of bitumen showing regular repair and maintenance works.
Mr Sutherland said when National Highway A1 was duplicated from Gepps Cross to Port Wakefield in the 1980s, that work stopped at Port Wakefield – meaning traffic progressing further north was restricted to single lanes either way.
“Duplicating this section of the Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta would not only give the public a long overdue, safe and seamless highway, but during the construction phase, we would also see the generation of much needed jobs and increased productivity to stimulate the State’s economy during the pandemic.”
Mr Sutherland said due to its parlous state, that section of National Highway A1 is constraining SA’s productivity.
He noted that more than 75% of non-bulk domestic freight is carried on roads, dominating freight movements between capital cities, including Adelaide. Truck traffic is predicted by Infrastructure Australia to increase nationally by 50% by 2030.
“It’s no secret South Australia requires a stronger and more prosperous economy. Road infrastructure is one of the key pillars that supports that ambition,” Mr Sutherland said.
“Upgrading this section of highway will tick many boxes including public safety, relieving road transport congestion, connecting regional communities, promoting tourism, creating new jobs and business opportunities and increasing productivity,” he said.
“Freight corridors in the eastern states are far superior to those in South Australia. It’s time the Federal Government joined with the SA Government and sorted out the Port Wakefield to Port Augusta Highway mess.
“South Australia drags the chain when it comes to road infrastructure. We need to get on the front foot, be more visionary and deliver road infrastructure in a much timelier manner.” Mr Sutherland said.