Australia Votes 2007: Opposition transport minister speaks to Wikinews on Central NSW freeway

Monday, October 15, 2007

A stretch of the Great Western Highway which would be upgraded by a Rudd Labor government.

In late September, the Howard government announced that it would fund a AU$20 million engineering study into the construction of a Bells Line expressway across the Blue Mountains, linking Sydney to the Central West of NSW. At the time of the announcement, Federal opposition transport minister, Martin Ferguson accused the federal government of "pork-barreling" on the issue.

In an interview with Wikinews, the shadow transport minister warned that a Bells Line expressway could not be built for many years, regardless of the outcome of any study and that people in the Central West want "better roads now". Mr Ferguson said that a Rudd Labor government would upgrade the Great Western Highway now and spend up to $5 million investigating the Bells Line expressway proposal as part of a broader study into the transport needs of Central Western NSW in the medium to long term. He said that $200 million had already been promised by the opposition to upgrade the Great Western Highway between Mount Victoria and Lithgow.

When questioned about other possible road projects a Rudd government would embark upon, Mr Ferguson promised to retain the current Auslink projects and to upgrade highways which form the national highway network. Mr Ferguson said "When it comes to the national network, we are committed to the ongoing progressive upgrade of the Hume, Pacific and Bruce Highways and other highways identified in the corridor strategies that have been agreed between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories."

Mr Ferguson attacked the Howard government's recent transport announcements, claiming that they are based merely on marginal seat politics and promised that a Labor government would base funding on economic priorities, relying upon the advice of experts.

Mr Ferguson also commented on the government's $1 billion funding announcement for the Pacific Highway. Mr Ferguson criticised the announcement claiming it to be without substance. "This announcement came with no details about where the money is coming from, what specific projects will be delivered or when."

"It’s almost as if John Howard has plucked a number out of the air without any consultation with the NSW Government on the details of the project," said Mr Ferguson.

Mr Ferguson said that drivers who used the Pacific Highway "just want the project completed". He recalled that the upgrade program was initiated in 1995 by a Keating Labor federal government and NSW government partnership.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.