THE installation of roadside and centre of the road wire rope barriers on the Princes Highway between Sale and Bairnsdale is going ahead despite local concerns and calls from the Independent Riders Group to halt their installation across the state.
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull has asked Roads Minister Luke Donnellan to put the project on hold after emergency services personnel and road users raised concerns.
The Independent Riders Group is also urging the minister to halt their installation after the death of a motorcyclist on the Calder Highway.
Riders' group spokesman Damien Codognotto last week raised concerns about kangaroos "corralled" by wire rope barriers.
"Wire rope barriers may be keeping roos on our roads, but VicRoads aren't doing any research so it's hard to know," he said.
"There has to be a wire rope barrier moratorium until we know what killed the motorcyclist last weekend."
Mr Codognotto wrote to Mr Donnellan following the death of the motorcyclist on November 12, saying his group had long complained about the dangers that wire rope barriers posed to motorcycle and scooter riders.
"Last week the Bendigo motorcyclist died after he hit, or swerved to miss, a kangaroo," Mr Codognotto wrote.
"He fell and slid into a wire rope barrier.
"It is said that this rider would not have crashed but for the kangaroo, and would not have died but for the wire rope barrier."
Mr Codognotto called for a "full and open" coroner's inquest into the death of the rider, adding the European Union had ordered a review of the use of wire rope barriers, and some countries no longer installed them or had banned them.
He also alluded to an horrific quadruple fatality crash on the Northern Highway at Pyalong in 2015, in which a vehicle became airborne after striking a wire rope barrier.
Police told The Age newspaper at the time that "for one reason or another that vehicle has careened to the right-hand side and travelled off the road ... has struck a wire road barrier, or the commencement of a wire rope barrier, has then travelled airborne some distance and then has crashed into a tree after rolling,” he said.
“The roof of the vehicle has actually struck the tree.”
Mr Bull has echoed Mr Codognotto’s calls for caution, saying given the concerns and “lack of consultation”, Mr Donnellan should put the works on hold.
“In his response, the minister advised that extensive consultation has taken place, but that is clearly not the case,” Mr Bull said.
“The letter confirms the only consultation that took place prior to May this year, when the actual proposal was released, was done by social media in October, 2016, when general feedback was sought.
“A Facebook post does not cut it I’m afraid.
“From my understanding, our community was never specifically asked about centre of the road wire rope barriers between Sale and Bairnsdale until it was formally announced earlier this year that they were going to be installed,” he said.
“This has continued a trend of the government deciding what it is going to do, then spending a lot of money on public sessions to tell the community what it has already decided it is doing, and saying it has conducted an extensive public consultation.
“Public consultation is not getting feedback on what has already been decided, it is about asking what the community wants in the first place.
“It is clear the public consultation has been seriously flawed when you have members of the CFA, paramedics and police all saying the first they heard of it was the announcement it was going to happen.
“I also understand the shire has been approached with concerns by emergency services workers as well.
“I attended two of these consultations myself and raised these exact concerns, and was told the project is going ahead and these sessions were only about seeing if any minor changes could be made to address any small concerns.”
Mr Bull said the project, which will result in roadside and centre of the road wire rope barriers installed almost all the way along the highway between Sale and Bairnsdale, had been described by an experienced local emergency services member as being like a ‘tunnel without a roof’.
“An emergency services workshop was held as recently as the October 23 to work through the operational impacts of the safety works, but this should have been scheduled into the project plan right at the start, not as an afterthought one year on.
“I’m still waiting on an answer from the minister in relation to what design changes have been made to accommodate the concerns of our emergency service workers, let alone what happens when we have a large harvester or the like having to travel on the road at a slow speed and taking up almost all the room between the side and centre wire ropes.
“I have also lodged a question about improvements to Bengworden Rd which will become the detour of choice for road users seeking to avoid traffic congestion on the Princes Highway for the long period of installation.”
Coincidentally last week, VicRoads issued a media release saying it wanted to hear from Victoria’s motorcycling community about ways to enhance safety on Victorian roads.
Safe System Road Infrastructure program director Bryan Sherritt said VicRoads wanted to hear the views of motorcyclists on their biggest safety issues.
“The number of motorcyclists in Victoria is growing, so it’s more important than ever that we work together to create safer roads in Victoria,” he added.
The survey will be available via the VicRoads website and from VicRoads offices across the state from today and will run until December 15.