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Flying highway

Saturday, 31st January, 2015

By Erica Visser

Emergency airstrip for Tibooburra road

The State Government yesterday announced almost $5 million in funding to seal the Silver City Highway, including an airstrip to allow the Royal Flying Doctor Service to reach emergencies more quickly.

Local MP John Williams said that $4.7 million would go towards sealing 7.4km of the highway around 220km north of Broken Hill, including a section which will be used as an airstrip.  

“Work to improve safety on the outback highway will involve building up the road to better suit the surrounding terrain before adding a layer of gravel and a bitumen seal,” Mr Williams said.

“This will involve realigning sections of the road to provide a smoother and safer journey for motorists and more opportunity for overtaking.

“The project will also provide motorists with a more resilient road surface during and after wet weather.”

Local RFDS Base Manager Steve Martin said that the airstrip would provide a safe and convenient place for planes to land in the event of an emergency. 

“At the moment we go to the nearest strip which could be a fair distance from the emergency,” Mr Martin said.

“We’re looking at having a couple of spots on the highway... It’s a fantastic concept.”

Former Broken Hill mayor and roads advocate, Ron Page, welcomed the announcement.

“The Silver City Highway and Pooncarie Road are crying out for state and federal funding,” he said.

“Sealing these will make a shortcut, whether it’s for heavy vehicles or the tourists to get to destinations a lot quicker and a lot cheaper.”

The sealing of the Silver City highway had been at the top of the region’s wish list for 20 years.

“There’s a lot of people that have put effort into campaigning for it. It’s always enjoyed the state members support,” Mr Page said.

“Broken Hill has a history of knocking on the door at Canberra to get it sealed.”

Mr Page called on the federal government to step up and match the funding.

“If Tony Abbott wants to be known as road infrastructure minister he should delegate money to the Silver City Highway and Pooncarie Road straight away.”

Meanwhile, independent candidate for Barwon, Rohan Boehm, said road funding was needed to boost the economy in western NSW.

“This road would open up the outback with a route from South Australia straight up into Queensland. Having to go the long way around deters a lot of tourists,” he said.

Mr Boehm agreed that an all-weather road should be laid between Pooncarie and Menindee.

“It’s an important road for Menindee, which in January this year saw its grape industry closed down. What’s next? This road would return Menindee Lakes tourism status.”

The resealing will be done from 6am to 6pm on weekdays and some Saturdays.

“Traffic will be detoured along Cobham and Henry Roberts Road until the end of June, weather permitting, which will add three kilometres to a journey between Broken Hill and Tibooburra,” Mr Williams said.

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