Western Highway duplication campaign launched

Kevin Erwin chair Western Highway Action Committee, Terry Grainger from Yarriambiac Shire, Horsham City Mayor Cr David Grimble, Pyrenees Shire Mayor Cr Robert Vance, Northern Grampians Shire's Cr Jason Hosemans and Ararat Rural City's Cr Ian Harris, Brad Close from the Victorian Transport Association, Ballarat City Council�s Cr Vicki Coltman, Rod Mayberry from Ryans Freighters, Ararat Rural City Mayor Cr Paul Hooper and Scott Coventry from Cube Transport. Picture: PETER PICKERING

Kevin Erwin chair Western Highway Action Committee, Terry Grainger from Yarriambiac Shire, Horsham City Mayor Cr David Grimble, Pyrenees Shire Mayor Cr Robert Vance, Northern Grampians Shire's Cr Jason Hosemans and Ararat Rural City's Cr Ian Harris, Brad Close from the Victorian Transport Association, Ballarat City Council�s Cr Vicki Coltman, Rod Mayberry from Ryans Freighters, Ararat Rural City Mayor Cr Paul Hooper and Scott Coventry from Cube Transport. Picture: PETER PICKERING

THE Western Highway Action Committee is hoping its new campaign, which was launched in Ararat on Wednesday, will deliver a State Government funding commitment towards the $500 million needed to continue the duplication project through to Stawell.

WHAC chairman and Northern Grampians Shire Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin was joined at Wednesday's launch by Ararat Rural City Mayor Cr Paul Hooper, Pyrenees Mayor Cr Robert Vance and representatives from the Victorian Transport Association.

Also in the crowd were two of the candidates for the seat of Ripon in this November's state election, Daniel McGlone (Labor) and Scott Turner (The Nationals) and it is getting a commitment from both political parties that WHAC is seeking.

Mr Erwin said the 'Don't stall - fund to Stawell' campaign has been rolled out in the hope of an allocation for the Western Highway duplication placed in the next state budget.

"Obviously there is a state election coming up and we need the Victorian Government and the Opposition to commit to further funding of the duplication through to Stawell," he said.

"That's what this campaign is about. The works that are currently being done will be completed by the end of summer 2016, so there is a need to continue that funding on.

"(The two parties) have been very supportive of the project, but that support simply has to develop into dollars.

"The second part of the program is to get the State Government and the Opposition to commit to funding in the 2015/16 state budget."

The WHAC, which is made up of 10 western Victorian Councils, believes construction works from Buangor could begin immediately and that the entire duplication project from Ballarat to Stawell could be completed by 2017.

Cr Paul Hooper said it is common sense to continue the job while the current works are underway.

"If that doesn't happen, then how do you assemble a work force of that size again? It is going to be quite difficult," he said.

"The contractors will go and chase work if there is a significant gap between the next stage going ahead and they could be anywhere in Australia, so how do you get 200 plant operators back on one job?

"From our perspective it is the second most used freight corridor in Australia, it needs some investment put into it.

"The traffic is increasing. We know there are 1500 trucks a day using it, there's 4000 vehicles and that is all going to double in the next 20 years.

"From an amenity point of view, from a safety point of view and more importantly from a productivity point of view this needs to happen.

"The planning is almost complete to Stawell, get on with it and don't forget the bypass of Beaufort and Ararat either."

The 'Don't stall - fund to Stawell' has received backing from the Victorian Transport Association and RACV.

Brad Close, industries service manager of the Victorian Transport Association, said the safety, productivity and efficiency for all drivers would be improved with a duplication.

"What we are seeing here along the Western Highway at the moment is if there is an incident on the single lane highway network it results in closures for significant periods of time," he said.

"That impacts on everyone, not just drivers, but customers, consumers and residents, so it is important to see the duplication continue.

"We've been supporters of the WHAC since its inception and the reason for that is because it is quite unique in the way it operates.

"The fact that it has brought 10 councils together and they are working in a collaborative manner to achieve a planned duplication of the freeway.

"They started at the Melbourne end and they were particularly involved in the Deer Park bypass and the Anthony's Cutting upgrade and they have worked their way progressively west. It makes a lot more sense that way than it would to have 10 separate councils all vying at the same time for funding to just get their patch done.

"Everyone is on the same page and it is refreshing."

A short video through social media and bumper stickers will be rolled out in the coming weeks as part of the 'Don't stall - fund to Stawell' campaign and Cr Erwin has encouraged the community to get behind the cause.

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