A proposal to build a complete inland highway connecting Melbourne to Cairns is garnering strong political support as the Bruce Highway becomes increasingly congested and hazardous.
The proposed highway would be situated to the west of Australia’s Great Divide, and would run nearly the full north-south length of the continent, connecting Melbourne in the south to Cairns in the north of Queensland.
The US army commenced work on such an inland highway during the Second World War as a back-up route should the Bruce Highway be disrupted by a Japanese military offensive or natural disasters.
Today, however the Hann Highway remains in a state of considerable neglect, consisting largely of gravel sections which are in perennial need of upgrading.
At the same time, the lack of an alternative route connecting the northern and southern reaches of eastern Australia is putting considerable pressure on the Bruce Highway, which suffers from a worsening reputation for hazardous patches and congestion.
Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter is now calling for a radical overhaul of the Hann Highway in order to alleviate stress on the Bruce Highway and make business easier for Queensland’s farmers and pastoralists.
“They need a solution to the Bruce Highway and this is a cost effective way for them to address the problem,” said Katter. “It will deliver for the cattle industry and all the banana growers in Tully, that cane take large volumes of bananas down to the Melbourne fruit markets.”
Katter argues that the Federal Government’s proposed inland rail line, connecting Brisbane to Melbourne, will be insufficient for the nation’s needs, and that the construction of more inland roadway is required in order to provide durable, high-capacity routes to freight vehicles.
According to Katter, the goal would be to build an inland road capable of bearing triple carriage trucks which can carry up to 90 tonnes of freight, as compared to the Bruce Highway, which is only capable of bearing double carriage vehicle with a maximum capacity of 45 tonnes.
Initial upgrades to stretches of the Hann Highway in northern Queensland been hailed by farmers in the region, who say the improvements have dramatically reduced travel times.
The Queensland Department of Transport has responded to Katter’s call by agreeing to engage in discussions with landholders about the future development of the inland highway.