How would you rate the safety and condition of roads in New England?
The Australian Roads Assessment Program (AusRAP) has burnt the rubber and revealed that only 0.1 per cent of the 2,843 kilometres of roads across New England North West received the highest safety rating of five stars.
AusRAP, an internationally recognised road safety rating assessment system that operates in more than 100 countries, awards road star ratings based on their level of safety.
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Safe roads are assessed with design elements considerations such as dual lane divided carriageways, good line marking and wide lanes having a higher star rating.
Lower-rated roads are likely to have single lanes and be undivided with poor line marking and hazards such as trees, poles, potholes and steep embankments close to the edge of the road.
Worryingly, New England North West scored the highest percentage of 1-star ratings in NSW (25.5%) equal only with the North Coast.
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said the fact that the total length of NSW roads to receive the maximum 5-star rating is less than a rounding error should concern policymakers.
"As the Australian Government looks to re-focus its infrastructure funding priorities there re two critical statistics it must keep in mind, only 0.3 per cent of the state's roads are deemed to be truly safe and the national road toll is seven per cent higher than the same time last year," Mr Khoury said.
Armidale Council deputy mayor Todd Redwood said that over a decade of mismanagement by previous councils has taken a toll on road conditions.
"The fact is that roads across New South Wales at the moment, well are pretty shocking, to be honest, including ours," Cr Redwood said.
"There have certainly been significant weather events that have led to a further deterioration of the roads, but it was also, you know, over a decade of mismanagement of the roads in our region that has set them for that failure.
"Our council pushed through in the last financial year in anticipation of this financial year for a special rate variation and that was one of the very reasons that we had to do that because of the infrastructure, the assets that we had were so run down that you know, we really needed a strong cash injection to be able to get those up to scratch.
"So that's, you know, part of the need for that special rate variation is attached to roads.
"Over the years, previous councils in Armidale had underspent on roads to the tune of about $7 million a year for about a decade.
"It's no surprise that then when you get hit by the serious weather events of both the bushfires and then the significant rain in our case, those roads didn't perform well because they hadn't been looked after for a long time."
The National Farmers Federation welcomed the November 22 announcement that the Federal Government will effectively double the roads to recovery funding program, providing a much-needed shot in the arm for the state's dilapidated regional roads.
Meanwhile, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Katherine King said the government would gradually increase funding for the Roads to Recovery program from $500 million to a $1 billion program.
NFF President David Jochinke said this increased funding would provide key resources to local government to maintain local road networks.
"Flooding in 2021 and 2022 significantly deteriorated critical road infrastructure across Australia and the systemic underfunding of the regional road network has slowed road repairs" Mr Jochinke said.
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