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Transport industry slams '17-hour delay' in reopening Stuart Highway

Friday November 12, 2021 - 08:22 AEDT
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The Stuart Highway was closed on Thursday due to flooding at 16 Mile Creek. - ABC

The Northern Territory Road Transport Association has slammed what it says was a 17-hour delay in reopening the Stuart Highway after flooding. 


After Alice Springs enjoyed its wettest 24 hours in 20 years, the Stuart Highway was closed heading north several times due to flooding.


On Friday morning the highway reopened, but the Road Transport Association said it should have happened sooner. 


"We understand that yesterday afternoon, around three or four o'clock, the civil construction operations manager indicated there was no more than 200 millimetres over the road," executive officer Louise Bilato said.


'Up to 40 trucks' held up 


Ms Bilato said she had been advised as many as 40 trucks had been caught up in the delays, carrying various goods like fuel, food and vegetables bound for supermarket shelves in the Top End. 


She said the wait for such a vital road to reopen was not good enough, especially if it could have been reopened yesterday afternoon.


"So we could have, if the road inspectors could have been out there at that time, been able to move at least heavy vehicles ? on that national highway network from potentially 4pm rather than 7am today," Ms Bilato said. 


"We've seen a whole 17-hour hold-up and that's not good enough."


In a statement to the NT Country Hour, the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL) said officers had reported flooding at 16 Mile Creek had begun to recede on Thursday evening.


"However, concerns remained in relation to the condition of the road pavement, the flow of the water, and potential for hazardous debris hidden below the floodwaters," a spokesperson said.


"This section of the Stuart Highway remained closed until the floodwaters subsided to a depth where the department was able to inspect the road for any damage, clear it of latent debris, and be certain the road was safe to be opened to the public."


Kylie Stanes from Stanes Transport said a driver returning from a remote community to Alice Springs was forced to wait a day and a half before the road reopened. 


"We were lucky in the sense that our truck was empty on its way back into Alice Springs," she said. 


"You would have other companies who would have multiple road trains sitting out there, which would have refrigerators running ? plus you've got the sit-down time of the fresh produce that I know that some of them had on board."


Weather the storm


Ms Stanes said they had the capacity to be flexible, but delays like roads being closed could quickly create a domino effect for smaller companies. 


"The whole supply chain gets affected, you are literally late delivering to the supermarkets and grocers in town, and if that stock doesn't sell quickly enough they're possibly looking at writing off stock at their end as well," she said.


To see what roads remain affected by flooding, go to the NT Road Report website.







- ABC

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