Criticised for his government’s decision to scrap the open speed limit trial in the Northern Territory as a matter of urgency, this week Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner has followed through on a promise to contact carmakers on the issue.
The new Territory leader has declared that carmakers are still welcome to exceed the new / reinstated 130km/h limit in certain circumstances, with minimal paperwork required in order to do so.
Under the Country Liberal Party’s (the outgoing government) open speed limit trial, drivers were tasked with determining a safe cruising speed according to the conditions on a section of the Stuart Highway stretching almost 400km north from Alice Springs.
While the word ‘trial’ was attached to the policy, in truth the open speed limit was simply a return to road rules in place prior to 2007 when the then-Labor government declared it was introducing a Territory-wide maximum 130km/h limit.
A rise in road fatalities, injuries and animal strikes since 2007 prompted the Country Liberals to reintroduce open speed limits, with the policy being a key election promise from their 2012 election victory.
Besides the benefits to road safety, open speed limits have also proved an economic boon to the NT with tourists and carmakers travelling to the Red Centre to travel on the Stuart Highway.
Carmakers feel the NT’s harsh climate, fine red dust and open speed limits make for ideal testing conditions for their new models. Porsche (pictured), Bentley and Ford are among those who went above and beyond to test performance models in the NT, and the publicity for the Territory was priceless.
Fearing that all of this may be lost, thanks to his government’s decision to scrap open speed limits, the Chief Minister earlier this month promised to lay out the ‘Welcome’ mat for carmakers to pick up where they left off.
“Central Australia offers a unique testing environment due to its climatic variations, availability of sealed and unsealed roads, and proximity to amenities in Alice Springs,” Mr Gunner said in a letter to carmakers.
“The vehicle testing sector plays an important role in supporting the central Australian economy, one which I am keen to strengthen and grow.”
Mr Gunner stressed that all other drivers would be subject to the new 130km/h limit.
An online petition calling for the open speed limit trial to remain was launched shortly after the NT election, but the petition has only gathered around 1700 signatures to date.
Should the Country Liberals have been returned to office, the party vowed to continue its expansion of the trial to include sections of the Victoria and Barkley Highways, along with a greater stretch of the Stuart Highway.
Since the trial began in 2014, only two fatalities and one serious injury have been recorded in the open speed limit trial area - none of which were speed-related.
MORE: Ex-Highway Patrol Officer Says ‘Speed Up’, QUT Says ‘Slow Down’
MORE News & Reviews: Speed Limits | Northern Territory | Road Safety