Thousands of ‘super trucks’ set for Hunter

A NEW plan to upgrade the Golden Highway could lead to more freight moving through the Port of Newcastle, boosting economic activity but potentially putting thousands of trucks up to 25-metres long on city roads.

The proposal, to be launched today at State Parliament, promotes the highway, stretching from the Upper Hunter to Dubbo, as an alternate route between the agricultural Orana region in the state’s central and north-west, and the Hunter and Sydney.

It would cater for ‘‘super B-double’’ trucks that cannot use the congested Great Western Highway into Sydney, where only 19-metre-long vehicles are permitted through the Blue Mountains.

About 180 to 200 trucks a day coming from areas such as Dubbo and Mudgee could be using the Golden Highway route instead by 2031. Trucks would head down the Hunter Expressway then the M1 to Sydney, or be lured instead to the Port of Newcastle.

Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner will release the proposal, along with two new infrastructure plans setting out priorities for the region, months after they were submitted to the federal government.

Part of the broader Hunter Economic Infrastructure Plan, compiled by Infrastructure NSW and Regional Development Australia Hunter, the highway proposal could establish an economic case for more goods to move through the Port of Newcastle, creating jobs and investment.

It could also help the city to be finally placed on the national highway network.

RDA Hunter chief executive Todd Williams said there was capacity to boost activity through the port, which the state government is set to lease to the private sector.

The highway proposal would tie in with national infrastructure priorities for enhancing freight networks.

It would boost the economies of both regions, supporting the resources and agricultural sectors.

‘‘If we have the capability, we should be chasing these types of opportunities,’’ Mr Williams said.

Freight operators had shown interest in the idea because it would allow them to use 25-metre ‘‘super B-double’’ trucks instead of 19-metre B-doubles.

But the plan would likely encounter some opposition from residents along the route, particularly in Newcastle where concerns have been raised about the number of heavy vehicles around the port and Mayfield.

Super B-doubles are permitted in Newcastle, according to Roads and Maritime Services maps, but only on certain roads, such as Industrial Drive.

The proposal recognises the need for upgrades to the Golden Highway, a state highway where annually an average 65 crashes occur, including 35 that result in injuries and one or two fatalities.

It notes the first 10kilometres of the road is currently at capacity and recommends further investigation of improvements and overtaking lanes.

The number of trucks traversing the region is already set to soar significantly.

About 1000 heavy trucks a day, or nearly 50 trucks an hour, will traverse the Golden Highway by 2031.

And two-way movements of full trucks would increase from 1031 a day to 2020 on the New England Highway west of Singleton.

West of Branxton, trucks will increase from 1216 to 2446.

B-doubles are trucks with two trailers that can be up to 25metres long and 4.5metres high.

The standard is 19metres, with the longer version known as ‘‘super B-doubles’’ that can only travel on approved routes.

Operators consider the larger trucks more efficient, but also say they are safer because fewer trucks overall end up on roads than if conventional semi-trailers only are used.

‘‘Super B-doubles’’ are permitted on major roads in the Hunter, but are restricted from using some bridges.

The vehicles are dwarfed by B-triples, referred to as road trains, which are 35-metre giants.

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