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Fire reignites wire barrier debate

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SAFETY concerns about wire-rope barriers have been reignited by a witness of the Hume Freeway near Clonbinane fires earlier this month.

The witness called into 3AW radio station saying they had seen the incident unfold after a mechanical fault occurred on November 1.

CFA say the fire was caused by a vehicle’s mechanical fault, sparking four fires along the freeway. Windy conditions also played a role in the fire spreading quickly.

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The fire caused the freeway to close in both directions for a couple of hours.

“We were driving up the Hume and following a caravan and its tyre exploded … and because of the wire barriers he couldn’t pull over, so he drove for about another kilometre and a half, pulling his caravan, and it slowly disintegrated. Sparks flew off the side and it started a bushfire,” the caller said.

Shadow Minister for Rural Roads Roma Britnell said everywhere she went people shared their concerns of the barriers with her.

Ms Britnell said there were serious issues with the rushed rollout of wire rope barriers along road sides.

“When installed correctly, these barriers can save lives, no one is denying that, but there is strong evidence right across the state of areas where barriers have been installed incorrectly, effectively fencing people in with the potential for fatal consequences,” she said.

“The Auditor-General is conducting an audit of the wire rope barrier program and Daniel Andrews and Labor must commit to implementing all recommendations that come from that report.”

Regional Roads Victoria safer roads director Scott Lawrence said the safety barriers on the Hume Freeway made all drivers safe by preventing vehicles from running off the road or across the median into oncoming traffic.

“In fact since we began installing new barriers in 2016, the number of serious injury and fatal crashes on the freeway between Wodonga and Melbourne has almost halved – so we know they are doing their job,” Mr Lawrence said.

“The road shoulder on the Hume Freeway is wider than a traffic lane and allows drivers space to pull over in an emergency.

“Drivers in passing vehicles can also do their part by being cautious, moving to a lane further away when it’s safe to do so, and slowing to a safe speed when there are people on the roadside next to a stationary vehicle, regardless of the circumstances.”

Regional Roads Victoria says it is working closely with the CFA as it continues to roll out new flexible safety barriers on highest-risk roads

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  1. I don’t get the math, if the WRB have halved incidents why is the road toll as high as it is?
    Like is your data from a small bit of the Hume which has an uncharacteristic ow incident rate?

    Isn’t it also true that since 2016 major parts if the Hume have been modified, such as lane duplication. How much of the reduction was due to these efforts and not WRB.

    If the minister was honest he would show the incident rate before and after WRB on stretches of road which have only had WRB installed and no other improvements. Along the entire length of the Hume.

    I really hate politicians twisting data to push their agenda. Just put the data out there and let us see the real state of affairs, because you can not be trusted to tell the real story.

  2. Problem is that any barrier would have had the same effect as all they do is separate oncoming traffic?

    If we move the barriers a bit further off the road they would still work… but not cause so many problems?

    The costs of the various options are almost identical… except when you factor in maintenance and replacement costs: WRB has a much higher maintenance cost as it is much more easily damaged and has a much shorter lifespan (~20 years) than most alternative barrier types (~80 years for concrete).

    Thus the claims made by the government about the effectiveness of WRB are red herrings… meant to distract you from the fact that WRB is underperforming both from a safety perspective and a financial one.


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