BELLS LINE OF ROAD SPEED LIMIT
Mr RUSSELL TURNER
(Orange) [5.55 p.m.]: I am concerned about the proposal to reduce the speed limit on the Bells Line of Road. As most members would be aware, The Nationals, the Bells Line Expressway Group and I have always looked positively, and we have visions of a new four-lane divided highway running roughly parallel to the Bells Line of Road. Unfortunately the Government, rather than being positive and looking forward to the benefits of such a highway or at least upgrading the current Bells Line of Road, has taken the easy, no-cost option of simply reducing the speed limit. The Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] stated that it consulted with the general public. It may have consulted the residents of Marrangaroo, Kurrajong and Bilpin, but it has not consulted those living in the central west, including me, who regularly use the road as an alternative highway to the Great Western Highway about the proposal to lower the speed limit.
Some sections of the road have a speed limit of 100 kilometres an hour and some sections are 90 kilometres an hour. It is proposed to reduce the speed limit on those sections to 80 kilometres an hour, and to reduce the speed limit on some sections from 70 kilometres an hour to 60 kilometres an hour. That will mean longer travel times for those who use the Bells Line of Road as a highway. The RTA said that the speed limits will be reduced because of accident levels, et cetera. However, that is a reason to upgrade the highway, not reduce the speed limits when it is an alternative to the Great Western Highway. During the day, especially on weekends, there are many residents, including children, and many fruit stalls in Bilpin. So I have no problem with speed limits of 80 kilometres an hour and 60 kilometres an hour in some surrounding areas. However, I have a problem with reducing the speed limit near Mount Tamar, where the country is more open and there are considerable lengths of passing lanes, with three lanes on one side of the road or the other, and motorists can safely pass other vehicles. To reduce the speed limit in that area from 100 kilometres an hour to 80 kilometres an hour is totally unacceptable to those who use the road regularly to travel to and from Sydney.
The Government should consider, wherever possible, installing in some of the villages a form of variable speed limit sign such as those on the M7. During the evening when many of us are travelling from Sydney to the central west, when residents are in their homes and the fruit stalls have closed, there is little traffic on that road. If the police enforce new speed limits that will be seen by many people as simply raising revenue. There is no reason to have speed limits of 60 kilometres and 80 kilometres in those areas outside peak periods. As well as making this private member's statement, I will be writing to the Minister asking him to at least recognise that the Bells Line of Road is used by people travelling through to the central west and that it is not simply a local road for residents in the area, even if the Government is not prepared to spend money on upgrading the road and has no desire to build a new highway, as is Coalition policy.
As I said, the road needs to be upgraded to make it safer. Some of the bends need to be straightened, more passing lanes should be provided, and there should be more side roads available to residents in the area. The Bells Line of Road should be turned into an alternative highway, not simply a residential road. The answer is not to reduce the speed limit. Late at night when people are passing through the area it is virtually impossible to sit on 60 kilometres an hour, and it is impossible to sit on 80 kilometres an hour where there is no traffic on the road. Reducing the speed limits will be revenue raising. I call on the Government to move forward in a more positive way, not go backwards by simply reducing the speed limits.