The Northern Territory has extended its open speed limit zone to include another 72km of the Stuart Highway, bringing the total to 276km.
Announced last Friday, the move will see the existing open speed limit trial on the Territory’s main north-south thoroughfare extended from Barrow Creek to the Ali Curung Rail Overpass from September 1.
The extension follows the first phase of an open speed limit trial on a 204km stretch of the highway – starting 37km south of Barrow Creek and extending to 10km north of Alice Springs – that has been in effect since February 2014.
The Northern Territory government says the move, which will be accompanied by $1.55 million worth of safety improvements and signage upgrades on the section of road, delivers on its election promise to begin an evidence-based trial of open speed limits on the Stuart Highway.
“Today’s extension will mean 276km of the highway is now covered by the trial which is welcome news for frequent road users, especially in the Barkly region and Central Australia,” a statement from the NT government read.
“Over the past 10 years, there has not been a single speed-related fatality on this new stretch of road.”
The extra stretch of road is accompanied by an extension of the 12-month trial that was due to expire in February this year. The NT Department of Transport will undertake a review of the trial to determine its success and future viability.
“While data analysis is still being finalised for the last quarter, road users have generally behaved very well during the trial period and have acted responsibly with the open speed limits,” the NT government claimed.
“A review process will now be undertaken before other decisions are made about making the open speed limit zones permanent, or extending them to other locations.”
Not all parties are happy with the speed limit change, however.
Opposition transport spokesman Ken Vowles said the report should have been made public before NT Chief Minister Adam Giles started announcing plans.
“All evidence and every study points to one direction – more speed means more accidents. Territory Labor agrees with doctors, nurses and paramedics who are anti open-limits,” he said.
Mr Giles has left the door open for further expansion of the open speed limit regime and sections of the Barkly Highway and the Stuart Highway north of Tennant Creek have also been mooted for open speed limit trials.
“While there are a lot of people who say they want open speed limits from Darwin to Katherine, that is a challenge,” he said.
In a statement issued to NT News, a spokesman for the chief minister said a summary report into the current 206km trial would be made public in coming weeks.
This article was first published on Motoring.com.au.