Down, down, barrier’s down

A SECTION of road barrier erected to show drivers what the roll-out would look like was taken out by a truck on Wednesday morning.

VicRoads had been asking for feedback on the stretch of centre road barrier recently installed between Stratford and Sale.

However a semi-trailer mounted the barrier about 5.30am in fog , flattening a large section before crashing into a power pole.

No-one was injured.

The police accident report mentions nothing about another vehicle being involved, but the circumstances are still being investigated.

Witnesses should phone Wellington Highway Patrol on 5142 2200.

Residents and emergency services personnel were asked by VicRoads to submit their views on the stretch of barrier by last Friday.

VicRoads’ safe system road infrastructure program director Bryan Sherritt said the barrier worked as it was intended to.

“We’re installing flexible barriers to create a more forgiving road network for all road users,” he said.

“But there’s not much that infrastructure alone can do to stop a fully laden truck travelling at high speeds.”

“If flexible barriers were so rigid that they could stop the heaviest of trucks on our highways, they would effectively become a hazard to all other drivers.

“Road safety is everyone’s responsibility, and relies on more than road infrastructure alone — including safe speeds, safe vehicles and safe road users.”

VicRoads was unable to comment more on the cause of the crash until police investigations are complete, however did confirm signs informing drivers about the installation of the flexible barrier were in place on the Princes Highway in the lead-up to and throughout its installation.

A VicRoads’ contractor cleaning up the site on Wednesday, VicRoads saying it first priority was “making the barrier safe, before more permanent repairs are made in coming days”.

VicRoads reiterated research done by the Monash University Accident Research Centre showed flexible barriers reduced head-on and run off-road crashes by up to 85 per cent, by stretching and absorbing the force of a crash.

The Gippsland Times’ Facebook post on the accident created a social media storm, drawing in about 500 comments, the majority slamming the barrier installation.

Some comments raised concerns about a lack of lighting in the area, pointing out how the yellow cap at the beginning of the barrier would not have been reflective enough in the fog.

“In fog, imagine seeing the barrier … you would automatically assume it was supposed to be on your left and think you were running off the road to the left of where a barrier is normally installed,” one read.

One comment from a woman who was on the road not long after the emergency services arrived said foggy conditions were worsened by sun glare.

“Visibility was definitely reduced and these barriers are the same colour as both the fog and the sky at the time,” she wrote.

“The driver wouldn’t have seen it until he was on it, with nowhere to go but oncoming traffic.”

Some joked that the contract to remove the barriers had been won by Coles, while others criticised a lack of consultation about installing them in the first place.

“Never has there been so much disapproval and concern for what VicRoads are doing. Why aren’t they listening to the people?” said one.

In parliament this week, Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull took issue with Roads Minister Luke Donnellan’s comments in which he has described those who have questioned the road safety barrier installation project as “banjo playing conspiracy theorists” and “dingbats”.

“This of course has included emergency service workers, including the CFA deputy chief fire officer Trevor Owen, who has raised concerns over elements of the installation,” Mr Bull said.

“The issue is not about the road safety benefits of the barriers as it is clear that in appropriate locations they provide a higher level of safety; it is about the rushed manner in which installation works are proceeding without discussions with locals and emergency services.

“It is a shame the minister has no respect for local paramedics and CFA volunteers who have raised these concerns — they do not deserve this and he should apologise.”

Mr Bull said Wednesday’s crash had generated a lot of feedback through his office, questioning the barriers’ effectiveness as a road safety measure in that location.

“Of course we need to await the accident investigation outcome, but what I would like to see, as I have requested many times, is for this project to be put on hold until proper consultation is conducted with emergency service workers, transport companies and local communities, as it has not occurred to date,” he said.

“People’s concerns need to be respected — especially those of our emergency services workers …,” Mr Bull said.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien raised the issue with Mr Donnellan in state parliament on Thursday.

“I call on the Minister for Roads and Road Safety to fully investigate this accident in particular as to whether the centre line barrier helped, hindered or indeed contributed to this accident,” he said.

Mr O’Brien urged Mr Donnellan to listen to the views of senior CFA officials, volunteers, truck drivers and local motorists.

“In the interests of transparency, the government should fully investigate this particular crash and the roll-out of the safety barriers more generally,” he said.