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RTF joins local anguish over Napier-Taupō road

RTF joins local anguish over Napier-Taupō road

 October 2020    RTF News

Travelling along State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupō is a case of taking your life into your hands – and it is a situation that the Road Transport Forum finds totally unacceptable, according to chief executive Nick Leggett.

“Just before the most recent COVID-19 outbreak I went and visited SH5 with Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, Deputy Mayor Tania Kerr and truck driver Antony Alexander,” says Leggett. 

“With eight deaths (on the road) in the previous 12 months, I knew what I would see would be bad – but it was even worse than I feared. The road is a complete mess. 

“The road surface is a patchwork of potholes and patches. There is so much loose chip and gravel on it, due to the inadequate bitumen, that it actually moves under your feet as you walk across it.

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Travelling along State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupō is a case of taking your life into your hands – and it is a situation that the Road Transport Forum finds totally unacceptable, according to chief executive Nick Leggett.
“Just before the most recent COVID-19 outbreak I went and visited SH5 with Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst, Deputy Mayor Tania Kerr and truck driver Antony Alexander,” says Leggett. 
“With eight deaths (on the road) in the previous 12 months, I knew what I would see would be bad – but it was even worse than I feared. The road is a complete mess. 
“The road surface is a patchwork of potholes and patches. There is so much loose chip and gravel on it, due to the inadequate bitumen, that it actually moves under your feet as you walk across it.
“Then you get to the sides of the road: If a vehicle has to take evasive action, needs to avoid something in an emergency situation, or simply drops a wheel over the white line, it is extremely unforgiving. 
“In many cases there is very little shoulder at all, very few runoff areas, and steep shoulder gradients that provide little margin for error.”
Given the deaths in the past year on this piece of road, the locals and those from our industry who travel on it regularly have had enough. 
“Talking with truck driver Antony really made me aware how the issues with the road combine to make it absolutely treacherous for trucks – so much so that many drivers are frankly frightened of the route. Having seen it for myself, I don’t blame them.”
Local councils have pleaded with central government and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency for years to do something about the road, yet there just doesn’t seem to be the will to make it happen, Leggett says.
When asked by media to comment, NZTA recently stated: “We recognise that the recent crashes on the SH5 corridor are a concern for residents and we are undertaking further analysis of the factors involved to determine whether there are specific issues or areas on the road that require our immediate attention.
“While there are no current plans for major capital works on SH5, we continue to explore possible options to improve the highway in the future and remain open to feedback or ideas. These possible options would be for safety improvements to the current highway – there are no plans to construct more lanes or passing lanes.”
Says Leggett: “NZTA’s position is something of a scandal in my opinion. It surely doesn’t take a whole lot more people to die to find out just how bad the road is and what the problems are. It’s blindingly obvious to anyone who drives along it.”
He wonders whether the Napier-Taupō situation suggests that the Government doesn’t have its priorities right when it comes to safety: “They came in committing to ideals such as Vision Zero and, to be fair, they have designated a lot of spending on road safety improvements. 
“However, one has to question whether they are prioritising the right routes if a busy and critical highway like Napier-Taupo that has such an appalling safety record does not meet the requirements for an upgrade.
“I suspect the issue is that Napier-Taupō will take more than a bit of retro-fitting to sort out,” says Leggett: “It requires significant investment in resurfacing, shoulder widening and barriers, as well as realignment in some places. 
“Still, there is no excuse for inaction. Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter need to visit the road, meet with the locals and truck drivers and experience how bad it is for themselves. I would welcome the opportunity to facilitate that, as they can be sure that RTF will keep the pressure on when it comes to this highly dangerous yet vital piece of our state highway network.”  

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