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NT to slam brakes on unrestricted speed limit trial

By Cameron Kirby and Barry Park, 30 Aug 2016 News

NT to slam brakes on unrestricted speed limit trial

The Northern Territory’s newly elected government says it will re-instate a 130km/h limit along the Stuart Highway

THE Northern Territory’s newly elected Labor government will re-instate a 130km/h speed limit on unrestricted stretches of the Stuart Highway, marking the end of a controversial five-year trial.

An unnamed spokesman for newly elected government of chief minister Michael Gunner told Wheels’ sister site Motormag.com.au that work to reinstate 130km/h speed limit signs on a 300km stretch of the highway would “start soon”.

It comes after the Adam Giles-led Country Liberal Party, which reintroduced the derestricted zones as part of a trial of open speed limits, was unseated in a landslide election result at the weekend.

It slams the door shut on more than four years of trials on a stretch of road that to date has only accounted for one, non-speeding related, fatality – after a car towing a caravan travelling at well below the speed limit ran off the road.

“Our policy which we have taken to several elections now is that it [Stuart Highway] should be 130km/h,” the spokesman said.

“There will be no open speed limits under Labor. We’re backing calls from experts in the field like the [Northern Territory] Police Association and the AMA [Australian Medical Association] who have called for 130km/h to be brought back in those zones.”

The spokesman said there was pressure on the government to lower speed limits to 110km/h to be more in line with other state and territory governments, but said the 130km/h limit was “reasonable”.

The derestricted speed zone does not mean drivers can push their cars as fast as they will go; police can still issue a dangerous driving penalty if the speed they are travelling at is deemed unsafe for their car or the conditions.

A Labor government introduced a 130km/h speed limit throughout the Territory in 2006. The Adam Giles-led Country Liberal Party was elected in 2012 partly on the promise that it would reintroduce the open speed limit on sections of road deemed safe enough to handle higher speeds. The first trial was introduced in 2014 to a 200km stretch of the Stuart Highway, and later extended to cover more than 300km of the road.

Giles told Wheels in the lead-up to the election that his government was looking at other roads in the territory that could also have an unrestricted speed limit.

In the lead-up to last weekend’s election, road trauma doctors banded together to lobby the Northern Territory government to scrap the unrestricted speed limits on safety grounds, claiming money spent on the trial would be better spent on drug and alcohol-related problems in the NT.