BLACK ICE

Drivers are be­ing ex­posed to “cat­a­strophic risk” on sec­tions of Al­bany High­way, says truck­ing com­pany man­ager John Mitchell af­ter one of his drivers lost con­trol be­cause of poor road con­di­tions.

Albany Extra - - Front Page - Rueben Hale

A truck­ing com­pany man­ager has ac­cused Main Roads of ex­pos­ing road users to “cat­a­strophic risks” af­ter one of his drivers’ trucks slid out of con­trol to the wrong side of Al­bany High­way near Arthur River.

The Mitchell’s Trans­port driver was left shaken ear­lier this month when his live­stock prime mover — with two trail­ers at­tached — aqua­planed across al­most 100km/h into trees on the opposite side.

Mitchell’s Trans­port owner John Mitchell said the truck was un­con­trol­lable on a sur­face sim­i­lar to “black ice” and it was lucky no cars were com­ing the other way.

Wil­liams po­lice had met Main Roads staff close to where the in­ci­dent oc­curred af­ter a sim­i­lar com­plaint about the sec­tion of Al­bany High­way last month.

The de­part­ment did re­me­dial works us­ing high-pres­sure wa­ter to re­move ex­cess bi­tu­men on the shiny road sur­face.

Mr Mitchell said the work done was not enough and he de­cided to make the in­ci­dent public over con­cerns WA’s roads were tick­ing time bombs.

Last year, a damn­ing re­port by the Au­di­tor-Gen­eral’s Of­fice found Main Roads’ approach to main­tain­ing the State road network was re­ac­tive, with re­pairs be­ing done only when there was a crit­i­cal need and leav­ing a back­log of overdue main­te­nance.

Mr Mitchell said the re­cent in­ci­dent had po­ten­tially fa­tal con­se­quences.

“There is lit­tle doubt in my mind the cause of the in­ci­dent was the poorly main­tained sur­face of a small sec­tion of the road,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The summer heat melted the sur­face and al­lowed the blue metal, which pro­vides trac­tion, to be pushed down, leav­ing the road shiny and slip­pery. No rec­ti­fi­ca­tion was made to make the sur­face safe.”

Mr Mitchell said his drivers re­port eas­ily fixed road haz­ards unat­tended for months at a time.

“Our busi­ness cov­ers much of WA’s coun­try roads on a weekly ba­sis, and re­port many un­re­solved dan­gers,” he said.

“A witch’s hat or a re­duce-speed sign still makes it only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one can be caught up in some­thing that could have been quickly ad­dressed and ap­pro­pri­ately rec­ti­fied in 48 hours.

“In my opinion, failure to meet th­ese is­sues quickly not only com­pro­mises the safety of the road user but also causes the as­set to re­quire more money spent when th­ese prob­lems cause the road in­fra­struc­ture to fail pre­ma­turely.

“I would stress that this is not likely to be nor should not be a po­lit­i­cal is­sue — this is a breadand­but­ter is­sue for the de­part­ment re­spon­si­ble.

“There should be no ex­cuses.” Main Roads said it would in­spect the site of the in­ci­dent, say­ing the de­part­ment took safety con­cerns se­ri­ously.

The de­part­ment said a main­te­nance crew in­spected Al­bany High­way each week to ar­range re­pair works where nec­es­sary.

“Main Roads will be un­der­tak­ing its next planned resur­fac­ing works along Al­bany High­way in 2018-19 as part of our an­nual works plan,” a spokesman said.

“All works are un­der­taken on a safety, as­set in­tegrity and fund­ing pri­or­ity-based approach.”

Mean­while, Trans­port Min­is­ter Rita Saf­fi­oti said the State Gov­ern­ment was ne­go­ti­at­ing sev­eral new long-term main­te­nance and mi­nor works con­tracts, which would en­able Main Roads to di­rectly con­trol the road network.

“The fo­cus of the con­tract changes will be on pub­licly ten­dered rates for re­sources and work, in or­der to re­duce over­heads and cre­ate lo­cal jobs,” she said.

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

Mitchell's Live­stock Trans­port chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Mitchell.

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