Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (11:41): I, of course, will rise to make a contribution to the Public Works Committee report with regard to the Truro bypass. It is a stretch of infrastructure that has long been discussed, long been talked about, because we know that the stretch of road that comes away from Halfway House Road up to Truro and beyond to Ebenezer Hill and then up to the Barossa and Nuriootpa is a main thoroughfare for heavy vehicles, it is a main thoroughfare for the east to the west, but it is also a connecting highway from the east to the north.
We see many, many tourists, travellers, trucks and freight that come via the Sturt Highway through the Goyder Highway then over to the Mid North and then up the Stuart Highway. I think it is a critical piece of infrastructure that we need to make sure is on the to-do list, that it is not just one of these projects touted as a must-do project. It sounds like the current government is kicking the can a bit, but I would urge not only the minister, the Premier and this state government but also the federal government to make sure that it is a priority, just like it is for Infrastructure Australia, because it has been on their priority list for a long period of time.
Obviously, the Sturt Highway and its efficiencies have become more critical now than ever. The reason I say that is that under the former Labor government we saw the cessation of rail out of Tookayerta, out of Loxton, that took grain down to Tailem Bend. We saw that rail line wound up. Then we saw that the other rail line from Pinnaroo, down the Mallee Highway to Tailem Bend, which was primarily a grain freight route, was also closed. That obviously has now put significant truck movements both ways—both trucks with grain heading out of the Mallee and then, of course, trucks have to return.
Some of those trucks return with inputs—freight—but a lot of those trucks return empty. We know that the empty trucks, in many cases, can do a lot of damage to those highways because those empty trailers do chatter on highways, and the more that they chatter the more damage we see done to roads. That is why the efficiency gains need to be achieved through this very important Truro bypass.
It is a $202 million project, which was given approval under the former Marshall Liberal government and it was music to many, many people's ears—not only constituents who use it as a passenger highway but those heavy industrial operators that are now seeing a significant number of freight movements, including increased grain on the Sturt Highway.
Not only are we seeing increased grain; we are also seeing, now, large commodities that are utilising that highway. As to the wine industry, we are seeing more and more wine that is being processed, being bottled at Glossop through the Accolade brand. We see a lot of the trucks particularly coming out of Sunraysia. My very good friend Damien Matthews, the managing director of G1 Logistics, is one of the larger freight operators on the Sturt Highway. He is one of the largest freight operators in the nation. What we see coming down the Sturt Highway out of Sunraysia, out of the Riverland to the ports, to the warehousing down in Adelaide, is nothing short of remarkable.
I caught up with Damien only a couple of weeks ago, and he tells me that they loaded 600 trailers on one Friday. That is 600 trailer movements. Potentially that would mean that we would see some 300 B-doubles or potentially slightly fewer road trains. That is still a significant amount of truck movement, heavy vehicle movements, coming out of one operator's yard. So that is the reason the Truro bypass is so important to him, for efficiency gains, but it is also the impact of safety.
Many, many times I drive the Sturt Highway from the Riverland down to Adelaide, and we see a number of instances of congestion from Halfway House Road all the way through to the Barossa. That is because we have a significantly old style of highway that runs up through Accommodation Hill and then in through Truro. Obviously the highway there is restricted to 50 km/h. Also it is restricted by fairly tight navigable bends. Then, when we see road trains and B-doubles that are making their way up Accommodation Hill, they are down to 60 km/h on an open highway. So there is the loss of efficiencies there.
There is also the impending safety issues. A lot of cars navigate the highway. There is an overtaking lane up Accommodation Hill, but in terms of passing a truck doing 60 km/h, fully laden, in a passenger vehicle or other light vehicle or also having to navigate past such a truck doing the speed limit—and that might be the 110 km/h or 90 km/h in other instances—it is critically important that we look at the way the Truro bypass would help make the Sturt Highway safer. It would give us those efficiency measures that every freight operator is needing.
I will talk about another very reputable freight operator in Booth Transport. Peter Booth is another very good friend of mine who also does a lot of freight movements, particularly tanker movements on the Sturt Highway, and he, too, has been very, very concerned about the navigable challenges with Accommodation Hill or going through Truro, into the Barossa and on to Adelaide. Peter has expressed his concerns to me many times about the need for the Truro bypass to go ahead.
There are some murmurings with it being revealed that the Truro bypass project could be at risk, and I would urge the current state and federal Labor governments not to err on the side of redirecting that money into other projects. That is a vitally important piece of infrastructure that needs to be upgraded, and it needs to be upgraded sooner rather than later.
We know that the project was meant to start last year, and it has been pushed back. I would urge not only the Public Works Committee to recommend that this project go ahead as soon as possible but also the transport minister, the Premier and every member of the Labor government here in South Australia and every member of the federal Labor government that this is a project that is needed; it is worthy. An average of 4½ thousand vehicles travel through Truro every day as a chosen route. Overwhelmingly, the majority of Riverlanders, when they travel from Chaffey to Adelaide, go by the Sturt Highway.
Of the 4½ thousand vehicles, 30 per cent are heavy commercial vehicles. Obviously, that would see somewhere in the vicinity of 700 B-doubles or road trains every day travelling through Truro, travelling on the Sturt Highway. That puts people at risk. I do not like talking about road fatalities on our regional roads, but we know that two out of every three deaths happen on our regional roads.
The Sturt Highway is no stranger to that; it is currently ranked as the second deadliest road due to its high fatality rate. As I think the member for Hammond said yesterday, from 2018 to 2022 36 people lost their lives on the Sturt Highway. It is a statistic that should ring alarm bells for governments of any persuasion. We also need to understand that this year alone there have been a further four deaths on that highway, bringing the total to 40. This is another justification as to why the Truro bypass project must go ahead.
I urge the government, I urge the Public Works Committee, to recommend that this project be advanced, be put in train, so that we can complement the rest of the Sturt Highway that is currently going through a safety upgrade—$87.9 million for overtaking lanes, rest areas, safety barriers and more signage. It is part of a road network that is becoming busier with more heavy vehicles, becoming busier with more traffic, more tourists, because people are now starting to travel from the east to the west, from the east to the north and from the west to the north. People are using that Sturt Highway, so it is imperative that the Truro bypass go ahead. It is a project that is vitally important to the efficiency of South Australia's economy and the freight distribution network.