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Transcript—Gabby O'Neill, Office of Road Safety on ABC Drive Western Australia

Subject: Fast-tracking Road Safety Program Tranche 2 projects in Western Australia.

Andrew Collins: First, though, some news about WA roads. The State and Federal governments have announced they are fast tracking 58 new road safety projects. It's under a $100 million joint funding package. Now the road upgrades across the state are set to be completed in the 2021–22 financial year. So they've been brought forward.

Now, what's going to happen? Well, there's work set to widen roads, seal shoulders, do some audible edge lines, also audible centre lines. There's lots of roads. Let me just run through a few of them. Places like the South Coast Highway, that's Esperance Way, Great Eastern Highway, Coolgardie Way, the Victoria Highway up in Wyndham, East Kimberley. The Great Northern Highway, the shires of Ashburton, East Pilbara, Port Hedland way. The Brookton High – the Brookton Highway, I should say, around the Shire of Brookton. Donnybrook, Kojonup Road, the Great Northern Highway around Broome. You've also got the Coolgardie‑Esperance Highway as well. One Arm Point Road in the Kimberley and the Lower Denmark Road in the Great Southern. If you've got a road that you believe should be fast tracked in terms of fixing it up, 0448 922 604 is the text sign. Gabby O'Neill is the Assistant Secretary at the Office of Road Safety. Gabby, hello to you?

Gabby O'Neill: Good afternoon.

Andrew Collins: Now, so these are being fast-tracked to be – for this work to be done this current financial year. How far forward have they been brought?

Gabby O'Neill: Well, I'm expecting them to all be delivered within – before Christmas over the next six months.

Andrew Collins: Okay. And what was the original intention?

Gabby O'Neill: Well, I think states generally have a long program of works, you know, that might take into account a period of, you know, five years depending on when they get their funding. So by providing a significant amount of funding we can get these works rolled out really quickly.

Andrew Collins: Okay. So you reckon all of these by Christmas?

Gabby O'Neill: Yes.

Andrew Collins: Is there enough labour and spare labour to do this?

Gabby O'Neill: Well, originally the projects were put forward as part of a stimulus package, making sure that there was work available for people during that early period of COVID. So with that we thought about what work can be done and we looked at construction works, road safety, to make sure that people, you know, remained engaged and employed and were having a positive benefit across the state.

Andrew Collins: Okay. For those of us that are driving around the regions of WA, we're getting used to the odd delay because there's been a lot of roadworks. Is this going to increase those delays? Can we expect even more activity than we have at the moment?

Gabby O'Neill: The projects will take place across the state. So every area eventually will have a road project. So there will always be some sort of delay as the big crews are on the road making the changes. But it's usually for a short period of time. So it's just within that construction period where people may have some – may have to wait as crews lay down a new asphalt and seal. But, generally, for the benefits that people will get out of it it's worth that short‑term wait.

Andrew Collins: So is this, is this the end of it then, the fast-tracking, or can we expect more projects to be brought forward in, say, the first six months of next year, another suite of them?

Gabby O'Neill: Well, you're exactly right there. So to date, this is the second tranche of projects. We've got a third tranche, what we're calling Tranche 3, and funding has been announced for Tranche 4 and 5. So over a period of about 30 months – five six‑month periods, we're having a roll out across the country of $3.5 billion of road safety projects, of which WA is getting $100 million worth in this Tranche 2.

Andrew Collins: So overall, those tranches, what will be the road safety impact for WA roads?

Gabby O'Neill: I think in this period we're looking at about 3,000 kilometres of roads being upgraded. In the previous – sorry, that was in the Tranche 1 and in this tranche there's going to be 2,600 kilometres of roads upgraded. So you can see within each period there's a significant, thousands of numbers of kilometres where people will have a better travel journey, they will have the rumble strips, so warning if they're veering out of their lane, they will have shoulders so that they can recover, and get back into the travel lane. There's the rumble strips in the centre lines and that avoids that head‑on, that indicates to people early that they're crossing over. So it helps people keep in their travel lane and avoid those serious crashes or those fatal crashes that obviously impact families for the long term.

Andrew Collins: We appreciate you coming up. Thanks for your time, Gabby.

Gabby O'Neill: Thank you.

Andrew Collins: Gabby O'Neill, she's from the Office of Road Safety, so that's a national office. This is a joint government project, State and Federal. So in this tranche, $100 million and fast-tracked, want to do it before Christmas, 58 projects said Gabby.

A number of texts are coming through, what should be fast tracked, Bolgart East Road between Goomalling and Bolgart. Terrible gravel road that services ambulance and a school bus. It needs sealing. Well, yeah, this – from what I can see, this isn't sealing dirt roads. This is all about sealing of shoulders, widening of shoulders, audible edge lines, audible centre lines and a few other works.

Andrew, "I've lived in Busso for the last five years", says Dave. "Foreshore Geographe Bay Road has a never had any line marking. People can and do drive down the middle as there are no lanes marked." Chris from Albany, nice to hear from you. "Roadworks need to include potholes on roundabouts." I imagine that one might fall into the remit of local government. Thanks for getting in touch.

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