Opponents of wire rope barriers are ‘playing conspiracy theories’, road safety minister says

Workers are installing more wire rope barriers on the Calder Highway, such as this site at Ravenswood South. Picture: ADAM HOLMES
Workers are installing more wire rope barriers on the Calder Highway, such as this site at Ravenswood South. Picture: ADAM HOLMES

LOVE them or hate them, wire rope barriers are here to stay on country Victorian roads.

Victorian roads and road safety minister Luke Donnellan visited an installation site on the Calder Highway at Ravenswood South on Tuesday where he spruiked the benefits of the program.

More than $42 million is being spent to install the wire rope barriers on the highway from Bendigo to the Western Ring Road.

They have been criticised by motorcyclists, who fear the rope acts as a “cheese shredder” and the poles are dangerous during crashes

Mr Donnellan was dismissive of the claim.

“There is no evidence in the world which indicates these barriers do anything but save lives, full stop,” he said.

“So people can go around playing banjos, playing conspiracy theories, rubbish like that, they need to actually deal with the facts and figures.”

Some CFA brigades near the Calder Highway also raised concerns about a lack of gaps in the barriers for them to access fires and crashes.

The Harcourt brigade had to park their vehicles in one lane of the highway to tackle a grass fire in November, as the barriers meant they could not exit the road.

Elphinstone fire brigade had been hindered in six crashes on the highway since the barriers were installed, including a delay of up to five minutes.

VicRoads conceded it may need to install additional gaps.

Roads minister Luke Donnellan and VicRoads CEO Peter Todd believe wire rope barriers will reduce the road toll in country Victoria. Picture: ADAM HOLMES

Roads minister Luke Donnellan and VicRoads CEO Peter Todd believe wire rope barriers will reduce the road toll in country Victoria. Picture: ADAM HOLMES

Mr Donnellan said the CFA had been heavily consulted about the wire rope barriers, and the decrease in trauma on the roads because of the barriers would mean they would not have to attend as many crashes in the future.

“Let’s be very clear, the CFA is very supportive of this because they don’t need to turn out to as many incidents along the way,” he said.

“Some people are saying, ‘oh I might have to travel an extra 500 metres to actually access a point so I can turn around’.

“Well I know that can be frustrating, but let’s be very clear, you’ll be turning out to less incidents, less issues along the way, so overall it’s a major improvement in terms of road safety.”

Mr Donnellan also described his political opponents as “dingbats” for raising their concerns.

In 2017, 155 people died on country Victorian roads.

Of those, 109 exited roads to the left before encountering fatal trauma.

VicRoads chief executive officer Peter Todd joined Mr Donnellan on Tuesday, and said the barriers were saving lives.

“We have heard many stories from people who have hit the barriers, and they have told us how they’ve saved their lives,” he said.

“We’re also hearing from numbers of groups of the emergency services who are finding when these barriers have been installed on some of the freeways and highways, that their callouts have been reduced because they’re not having to attend crashes.”

Mr Todd said additional infrastructure such as “crash cushions and other things that are going around the post” to reduce trauma for motorcyclists.

Transport Accident Commission chief executive officer Joe Calafiore said they were “delighted” with the rollout.

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