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Russian roulette on the crazy highway
On the Great Northern Highway between New Norcia and Wubin. Picture: Therese Sayers

There is little doubt this is WA's most terrifying stretch of road.

There has been a significant accident on the 145km of the Great Northern Highway between New Norcia and Wubin every 25 days for the past five years. In that time, three people have died and 10 have needed hospital treatment.

Truck drivers say it is a death trap. Other motorists say driving on it is like Russian roulette.

Even Transport Minister Troy Buswell says it is in urgent need of an upgrade.

The dangers of the road have been made worse in recent years by an increasing number of trucks carrying oversized mining equipment to the Pilbara.

Most people now agree the road needs to be rebuilt and widened.

Anything less would be considered a stopgap measure, given the increasing traffic and the crumbling bitumen, eroding shoulders and poor alignment. But a complete rebuild seems a long way off.

The State and Federal governments are negotiating over who will pay for a $40 million realignment and widening of a relatively small section known as Bindi Bindi Bends, where the road is particularly narrow and includes several blind turns. A spokesman for Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said yesterday that an announcement was imminent. Freelance journalist Therese Sayers, returning from a holiday in the Kimberley last weekend, said driving on the road was a frightening ordeal.

"We'd run the gauntlet and made it through," she said about arriving in New Norcia. "We felt certain others would not be so fortunate at another time on another day."

Transport Workers Union State secretary Jim McGiveron has described the road as "the most complained-about in the State".

"Unfortunately, the death traps along this long and winding road remain armed and ready to ruin the lives of new victims," he wrote recently. "As our members say, it is only a matter of time before there are more fatalities."

Truck driver Wally Webb said it was treacherous and needed to be rebuilt. "Otherwise, more people will die, probably in a head-on crash," he said. "There are so many near-misses. We often hit each other's side mirrors."

Driver Peter Elliott said the road was too narrow for two trucks, especially those carrying oversize loads. Trucks have to pull over, tearing up the bitumen and destroying the shoulders.

"There are near-misses all the time - and these near-misses involve millimetres, not centimetres," Mr Elliott said. "It is a very dangerous road."

Just last week, an elderly couple's new caravan was destroyed in a crash with a truck.

Truck driver Russell White said trees and signs were destroyed as trucks moved over to let each other pass. "This section is bad, but there are faults with lots of roads we have to travel on," he said. "Trucking in this State has become a very dangerous occupation."

Mr Buswell said the Great Northern Highway was part of the national network that was largely funded by the Federal Government.

"Although funding in recent years has enabled work to be undertaken on 75km of the Muchea to Wubin link, other sections to the north are in urgent need of upgrading," he said. "Of particular concern is the Bindi Bindi curves section that is narrow and has poor geometry.

"As an interim measure, Main Roads has reduced the speed limit through this section (from 110km/h to 90km/h and in one place 70km/h) and, earlier this year, the State allocated $1 million for urgent shoulder widening."