Open speed limit to stay on NT highway ... for now

Car companies such as Porsche have returned to undertake testing since open speed limits were reintroduced on the Stuart Highway.
Car companies such as Porsche have returned to undertake testing since open speed limits were reintroduced on the Stuart Highway. Contributed

THE Northern Territory Government has extended open speed limit zones on the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs.

But drivers may not have the option for long, with the NT Opposition holding firm to its 130kmh commitment if it wins government next month.

A 60km section was opened last week, which creates a continuous open speed limit zone for 336km on the Stuart Highway from north of Alice Springs to the Ali Curung rail overpass.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said the plan was to open up more of the Stuart Highway in the future.

"We want this to go further to Tennant Creek and onto Katherine," Mr Giles said.

But NT Labor's Shadow Health Minister Lynne Walker indicated it will not happen if they are in power.

"Labor's approach to open limits is the same as police, ambulance operators, surgeons, doctors and nurses - we don't support them," Ms Walker said.

"Open limits also require a huge economic sink to keep vast stretches of roads up to capacity for driving upwards of 200kmh and that money should instead be spent on schools, hospitals or developing beef roads to increase livestock export capacities."

But the Chief Minister believes open speed limits make the drive north from Alice Springs easier.

"(We are) taking an evidence-based approach to speed limits on the Northern Territory's major highways," Mr Giles said.

"Open speed limits are on sections of the Territory's unique road network with long distances between towns and low traffic volumes, but the government expects people to drive to the road conditions, safely and within their capabilities.

"This is not a licence to drive recklessly; it's about supporting individuals to make their own decision."

But Ms Walker said the government had not been forthcoming with its "evidence".

"To date Adam Giles and the CLP refuse to release the numerous reports into open limits, which could lead one to believe information within those reports make a strong case against open limits," Ms Walker said.

Open speed limit funding in Budget 2016 includes an additional $1 million for the next 17km section, planned to be from north of the Ali Curung turn-off to south of Wycliffe Well.

Mr Giles said a re-elected CLP would fund road improvements for additional sections between Mataranka and Larrimah and Daly Waters and Dunmurra.

"Traffic count data on the current open speed limit sections shows there has been only a small increase in driver speed, with 85% of drivers travelling between 133-139kmh," Mr Giles said.

He said upgrade works included clearing trees away from the edge of the highway, widening curves, upgrading the guardrails, stock fencing and improving line marking, reflectors and signage.

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