Record funding for pan-Australia highway

Australia has an extensive and well-utilised road network. As of 2012, around 90 per cent of passenger travel takes place on our road infrastructure, as well as one-fifth of all freight transport, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Keeping these roads in tip-top shape is integral to Australia's population, not to mention the economy, with thousands of business fleets relying on the road network every day.

It is even more critical for fleet services, with a surprisingly high quantity of Australia's roads not sealed. ABS found that about 80 per cent of the nation's road system is still unsealed, and half is earth track. This might not be a problem for those exclusively in metropolitan areas, but for long-haul trips and drivers in remote areas, poor roads can effect comfort, efficiency, safety and put a strain on fleet maintenance.

That is why the federal and Northern Territory governments have teamed up to split the $40 million bill to upgrade the Outback Way interstate. The road is dubbed 'Australia's longest shortcut', as it stretches from Laverton in Western Australia, through Alice Springs, into Northern Territory and across to Winton in Queensland.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the upgrade will improve the journey of drivers taking any part of the near-5,000 kilometre drive from Perth to Cairns.

"Outback Way traverses the most remote parts of Australia and is likely to punch well above its weight in terms of importance to our economy," Mr Truss explained. "Our regional and remote tourism, mining and freight industries use this route through Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Work will begin in this financial year to extend the sealed parts of the Plenty Highway towards Harts Range. General Manager of the Outback Highway Development Council (OHDC) Helen Lewis praised the upgrade for unlocking business potential.

"The works on the Plenty and Docker River Road will be a game changer for locals, tourism and industry. The Docker River Road is critical for the connectivity of the route and the integrity of the Outback Highway project," she concluded.