Council slams spread of 80kmh speed limits on country roads

Wakefield Regional Council chief executive officer Jason Kuchel.

Wakefield Regional Council chief executive officer Jason Kuchel.

A council with a far-flung network of roads has slammed the spread “by stealth” of 80 kilometre an hour limits on country highways.

The attack on the state government and transport department comes after a researcher advocated the slower limits in an “ideal” world.

The researcher’s comments sparked a strong response from chief executive officer of Wakefield Regional Council Jason Kuchel.

“It is apparently by stealth,” he said, referring to what he described as the “creeping” advent of the limits heading north from the Adelaide Hills.

He suggested government ministers were at the mercy of “so-called road safety experts”.

“Reducing speed limits is not necessarily the answer,” he said.

He said his council, which had the fourth-longest network of locally-maintained roads in the state, was at risk of a higher incidence of crashes and greater costs because heavy vehicles and other traffic could use dirt roads, governed at 110km/hr, as “short cuts” to avoid the possible 80km/hr limits.

Mr Kuchel said the introduction of the limits was “the worst kind of public policy when you are imposing something by stealth because you know it would not be acceptable to the public”.

The worst kind of public policy

Wakefield CEO Jason Kuchel

“The 80km/hr limit has been progressively introduced in the Adelaide Hills … now it is creeping farther out,” he said.

“In many cases in the hills, the government has put guardrails on straight stretches of road to make sure they are safe at 100km/hr and then they have reduced the speed to 80km/hr anyway.

“The road towards the railway crossing on Balaklava Road at Bowmans has been reduced to 80km/hr even though there is a flashing signal.

“I would understand why you would reduce it to 80kmh if you could not see the crossing … but we are talking about relatively-straight approaches where you should be able to see lights flashing.

“We are concerned they will be looking to introduce other 80km/hr limits.”

He said the possible changes could increase travel time in Wakefield to Adelaide by 15 or 20 minutes, but it was more dangerous in terms of fatigue to drive at the slower speed and motorists would be on the road for longer.

The Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure responded in detail to the issues raised by Mr Kuchel.