It’s been a bone-rattling but exciting experience for years, but has the Stuart Highway now crossed the line to become just downright dangerous?
The road running through the Centre of Australia is the grey nomads’ gateway to adventure but are the potholes which pepper the iconic highway ruining what should be a wonderful and liberating rite of passage?
Well, there are plenty who say the answer is a resounding ‘yes’, claiming the vital artery is effectively falling apart.
Kununurra-based Ord Fuel Supplies owner Guy Kimpton told the Northern Territory News that not nearly enough had been spent on the Stuart Highway.
“You’ve got your hold-ups naturally enough and you don’t expect everybody to build a bridge over every floodway,” Mr Kimpton said. “But the actual road itself is breaking up and that is purely through lack of investment over the years.”
Even some of the politicians agree. Member for Drysdale Ross Bohlin has been criticising the highway’s perilous state after driving from Darwin to Alice Springs recently.
The Country Liberals politician said the first 600km was “extremely” bad and that he’d had to weave and dodge his way down to Katherine. Apparently, there is even more damage on smaller sections over the 300km after that – including a 10 metre-long strip, almost the full width of the road, where the tarmac had been destroyed.
Mr Bohlin told the NT News there was also a 50 metre stretch at Wycliffe Well where the southbound lane had a trench carved out in it.
Not surprisingly, both the Federal and Northern territory governments are under fire for the Stuart Highway’s ragged state, and the lack of long-term investment in it.
But Infrastructure Minister Gerry McCarthy’s spokeswoman Claire March said the Wet was to blame. She said record rain and flooding had put huge pressure on Territory roads.
Ms March said the Federal Government squared away $20 million a year for maintenance on the three national highways.
“There are 10 crews of six working seven days a week to repair damage caused by the wet season,” she said. “As soon as conditions permit, heavy machinery will be brought in to commence more major repairs. “