Main Roads pledges action amid legal threats

Queensland Government says it is upgrading the New England Highway, as Trilby Misso prepares to launch legal action

Main Roads pledges action amid legal threats
Main Roads pledges action amid legal threats
By Brad Gardner | July 6, 2010

Dangerous trees on the New England Highway will be removed next month, as the Queensland Government faces a legal battle over claims it is ignoring the issue.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Main Roads says surveyors have started identifying trees that need to be removed to allow the road near Geham, west of Brisbane, to be widened.

Law firm Trilby Misso is taking action against Transport and Main Roads over the condition of the highway near Geham after a car passenger suffered a shattered femur when the driver hit a tree while swerving to avoid a branch on the road.

A spokesperson for Transport and Main Roads says an arborist is working with the surveyors to assess the safety of the trees and overhanging branches, while an ecologist has been engaged to assess trees marked for removal.

"This input will allow the redesign team to consider possible measures to retain valuable trees. Final numbers of trees to be removed are currently being determined," the spokesperson says.

"Work is expected to begin in August and continue for about 12 months."

Lawyer Michael Andersen has blamed the serious crash on the Queensland Government, claiming sections of the highway are dangerous due to a lack of upgrades.

"There are parts of the highway which have become very dangerous because the necessary upgrades of narrow, tree-lined sections haven’t been undertaken," Andersen says.

While saying drivers can be at fault for accidents, Andersen claims the condition of the highway is causing crashes.

"The history of the road itself speaks volumes," he says.

However, the spokesperson for Transport and Main Roads says multi-million dollar upgrades have been carried out over the last 10 years on the highway to widen routes, expand the number of lanes and install traffic and pedestrian signals.

This includes a $14.53 million upgrade for four lanes through Highfields in 2008 and a $14.8 million upgrade from Crows Nest to Pechey in 2009.

"Works included realigning a two kilometre section to the east of the highway and the construction of a southbound overtaking lane," the spokesperson says.

Wire rope barriers have also been installed in areas with a lot of trees, the spokesperson says.

Andersen, who conducted an investigation into the highway, claims there have been more than 300 accidents on a 43km stretch of road between Toowoomba and Crows Nest in the last 10 years.

He says the Government has received recommendations to remove almost 1400 trees but will only clear about 486.

Trilby Misso is taking action against the Department under the Civil Liability Act, which puts the onus on an individual or public authority to rectify a danger once notified of it.

Andersen says Transport and Main Roads is aware of the issue because the Australian Road Assessment Program rated the highway between Geham to Cabarlah almost three times higher than its ‘high risk’ rating.

Trilby Misso is currently drafting documents to send to the Department.

The Transport and Main Roads spokesperson says the safety of all road users is the Department’s top priority and it is committed to improving road safety.

Related stories:
Trilby Misso takes on government over dangerous road
Legal action looms over ‘highway to hell’

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