House debates

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Constituency Statements

Ballarat Electorate: Western Highway

10:32 am

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

Today, I rise to speak on the need in my constituency to upgrade the Western Highway between Ballarat and Melbourne. The Western Highway is the major road corridor between Melbourne and Adelaide. It is the second-busiest national highway in Australia in terms of freight movement. It is the backbone of western Victoria.

The link that the Western Highway provides between my electorate of Ballarat and Melbourne is integral to the continued population and economic growth of our regional communities. For many residents of Bacchus Marsh and other towns at the eastern end of my electorate, the road constitutes their daily commute to work in Melbourne, while many of us use it to access Melbourne on a less regular basis. However, as population continues to boom in Melbourne's west, the pace of travel on the road is only slowing. More than 60,000 vehicles travel along the Western Highway in each direction each day, spending increasing amounts of time sitting still and going nowhere.

These delays will only grow worse into the future, with the highway projected to accommodate 85,000 vehicles per day by 2021 and 113,000 by 2031. The road, as it is, simply cannot cope. The areas of the road which require work are clear to all of those who use it. From Melton to Caroline Springs, your journey slows. The road simply wasn't built to cope with the volume of traffic that it carries now, let alone what it will be expected to carry into the future.

Required upgrades to the Western Highway would likely include new interchanges to service the Melton West and Rock Bank areas, as well as the addition of lanes and removal of at-grade access between Melton and Caroline Springs. While these works would be in the neighbouring electorate of Gorton, they would offer significant benefits to individuals and businesses in my growing regional community, particularly commuters from Bacchus Marsh and beyond. Over recent years the communities along the Western Highway have unified under the auspices of the Western Highway Action Committee to push for works which have significantly increased their quality of life. The then Labor government listened to the community, carrying out works that fixed Anthony's Cutting, built the Deer Park bypass and began the important work of duplicating the highway through to Stawell.

I am pleased that once again the community is coming together to agitate for improvements to the highway, and I'm pleased to join with my colleagues the member for Gorton and Steve McGhie, the state member for Melton. We all hear from our constituents continually about the troubles they face along this stretch of road. The government needs to stop ignoring our region and investigate the best way to move forward to ensure that our communities have the link to Melbourne benefitting our rapidly growing population. It's an important economic development opportunity for our region, but it's also about quality of life and safety for our region. It is time for the communities to once again unite to get improvements to the Western Highway in my electorate.