THE federal Coalition has recommitted to declaring the Princes Highway from Geelong to Adelaide a road of national importance, potentially unlocking millions of dollars in support for the ageing south-west link of the highway.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan said the Coalition’s 2011 pledge remained in place and angrily refuted attacks from Labor that his party would withdraw support for duplicating the highway near Colac.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Mr Tehan said the Coalition would not only pay for the Winchelsea-Colac duplication in a first term of government but would include the remainder of the south-west highway as a road of national importance, thereby paving the way for extra lanes.
Federal responsibility for the essential transport and freight route ends in Colac.
“Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised to recognise the road as a road of national importance,” Mr Tehan said.
“It gives certainty to the funding formula. Any future duplication that is done will be done on the basis that it is a road of national importance. The key thing we need to do is get the duplication to Colac. These things are obviously done in sections.”
But Mr Tehan took a step back from comments by Mr Abbott in 2011 that duplication works could be carried out under a public-private partnership.
“No consideration has been given to how the duplication from Colac will be funded.” He said a two-for-one shared lane being promoted by the Great South Coast Group needed to be explored further.
“This is something that has worked in Scandinavia but I would obviously like to see what VicRoads has to say about it.”
Earlier this week Labor Corangamite MP Darren Cheeseman and the RACV voiced doubt over the commitment of an Abbott-led government to duplicating the highway from Winchelsea to Colac.
The remarks angered Liberals who campaigned heavily on the duplication at the 2010 election.
“An incoming Coalition government will invest $257.5 million for the duplication of the Princes Highway between Winchelsea and Colac,” Liberal Corangamite candidate Sarah Henderson said.