ROADS and Maritime Services has excised all reference to the 2016 Pacific Highway upgrade in its latest six-monthly report card.
The move has been seized on by the Northern Rivers-NSW Business Chamber as final confirmation the deadline first set by former Prime Minister John Howard before in 2007 had been jettisoned.
Northern Rivers-NSW Business Chamber regional manager John Murray pointed out the change, noting a section of the report, which appeared in the July to December 2011 edition, released in February, under the title "Achieving the 2016 target", had been renamed "Finishing the job" in the newly released January to June 2012 report.
"I'm bitterly disappointed that the second Pacific Highway Report Card proves that our hopes of a 2016 finish for the Pacific Highway upgrade have completely evaporated," Mr Murray said.
"The section in the first Report Card called "Achieving the 2016 target" has been renamed in the second Report Card "Finishing the job" - the clearest indication yet that 'finishing the job' is a long way off.
"The community is not interested in the blame game between the State and Federal governments over Pacific Highway funding. We just want to see the Pacific Highway upgrade finished as soon as possible with a sensible funding agreement between our two governments."
Mr Murray called on Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to take joint responsiblity for the project.
"It's time for the Prime Minister and NSW Premier to take a personal stake in finishing the Pacific Highway upgrade," he said.
"Both the State and Federal governments talk about the importance of the Pacific Highway and the horrendous death toll but they are failing to deliver on their promise to finish the upgrade by 2016.
"Cheap political point scoring by both governments is not the solution to fixing the Pacific Highway - a mature discussion with a funding agreement is the solution we are all looking for.
"Even the fact that we are being updated on construction progress for the six months ending 30 June in the last week of October highlights the very point that the Pacific Highway completion is slipping in priority for both Governments."
The report notes that, as of the end of June this year, more than half the highway between Hexam and the Queensland border had been upgraded.
By 2014, it was expeected 63% - nearly two thirds - of the upgrade would be complete.
Another 7% would be under construction with work ready to begin on the remaining 30%.
"RMS will engage contractors to complete the remaining sections of highway as soon as funding becomes available," the report says.
Crashes and fatal crashes appeared to be trending down as the upgrade progressed.
The report says in 2011, a total 24 people were killed in 21 crashes on the highway
. However, fatalaties were on track to finish much lower in 2012, with nine people killed on the road in seven crashes between January and June.
The worst year for fatal crashes between 1996 and 2012 was 2003, when 55 people were killed.
The upgrade so far had cut travel time between Hexam and the border from just over 8.5 hours in a car in 1995 to about 7.4 hours at the end of 2011.
It reported spending on the highway for the 2011-12 was more than $93 million less than expected because of wet weather, delays finalising per-construction approval documents for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade, and delays buying property for the highway between Warrell Creek and Urunga.
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