In 2010 Col Jackson travelled from Winton to Laverton (in reality, Brisbane to Perth) in what can be described as one of the great road journeys of Australia. The importance of the Outback Way is illustrated in the ongoing resolve by governments and communities to ultimately have it totally sealed.
FROM WINTON in Queensland to Laverton in Western Australia, Australia’s third and, urguably, most strategic highway is being further upgraded with the latest injection by the federal Government of $125 million in a priority projects allocation towards ultimately sealing Australia’s longest shortcut.
The Outback Way provides critical infrastructure to 13 indigenous communities, enables the development of tourism, mining, the agricultural sector across northern Australia and efficiency for freight and logistics across the nation.
In the past six months, the Outback Highway Development Council Inc (OHDC Inc) has been meeting with State and Federal Governments to develop an ongoing investment strategy for the Outback Way project.
The current allocation of $125 million is divided into 80 per cent from the Federal Government and 20 per cent each by the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian state governments.
In essence, Western Australia will seal 80km with $46.5 million; the Northern Territory will seal 60km with $52.06 million; and Queensland will seal and widen 69km with $26.44 million.
The funding announcement was made yesterday (November 1) by the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, in conjunction with the Federal Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud.
The Minister said the works will allow for two projects worth $8.7 million to deliver approximately 26km of widening works on the Kennedy Developmental Road; two projects to seal approximately 41km of the Donohue Highway to a two-lane standard (worth $16.7 million); and $1.01 million to deliver nearly 2km of widening works on the Diamantina Developmental Road.
“These works have been identified following an independent review of the Outback Way to identify high-priority sections requiring upgrades in the short term, with the results of the review used to inform the allocation of the $100 million commitment,” Mr Chester said.
“Following the delivery of these five projects, less than 10 per cent of the Outback Way in Queensland will remain unsealed, delivering benefits for the industries and communities who use this key east-west route to access economic opportunities and essential services.”
According to Patrick Hill, chairman of the OHDC Inc, this announcement means that a further 210km of the Outback Way linking Laverton and Winton — and effectively Perth and Cairns.
The ‘shortcut’ is 2,700km in length from Winton to Laverton; by 2020, 1,500km will be sealed.
Besides linking the east coast of Australia to the west through the heart of the nation, the development of the Outback Way is critical for the economic development of the 16 rural and remote communities and centres along the highway.
“The route will enhance the way we do business and improve access and continuity of health and educational services in isolated areas,” Patrick Hill said.
Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said the upgrades would improve road reliability, reduce travel times, cut costs for freight operators and enhance economic opportunities for communities and industry throughout regional Queensland.
“The works will create safer overtaking opportunities and improved sight distance for drivers, which is critical to supporting the safe movement for the mix of vehicles that use the Outback Way,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Construction of one of the Queensland sections to be upgraded is expected to start later this year, with other projects to be delivered progressively in the coming years.”
The Australian Government has committed up to $100 million to deliver 13 priority projects across the Outback Way, with the Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian governments, and relevant local councils, contributing the remaining 20 per cent required for each project, totalling $25 million.
A stark feature of the Outback Way is nature’s diversity — from the cool waters in shimmering gorges, the unique architecture of myriad mountain ranges, and the stature of the desert oaks in their majestic forests.
Tourists will witness indigenous culture, view pioneering heritage, visit Lasseter’s cave, follow the art trail, get into the country spirit of an outback festival and form a genuine and long-lasting love for outback hospitality.