Esplanade needs urgent attention but not a “Quick Fix”

Legislative Assembly 9 February 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:00): (6196) I raise a matter for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and I am seeking urgent action to ensure the continued safe passage of cars, bikes and pedestrians and management of the interaction with pedestrians on the Esplanade between Lempriere Avenue and Bruce Road in Mount Martha.

The road is like a short section of the Great Ocean Road. It was literally cut out of the side of Mount Martha. It has spectacular views, and for most of its life it carried traffic more than adequately. But of course with an increased population, lots of subdivision on the hills above it and a particular increase of people on bikes and so on, there is far, far more traffic than it has ever carried before.

It has been a problem for a number of years, but it is just getting worse and worse.

The comparison that comes to mind—every morning I walk or run across the Anderson Street bridge to South Yarra. When I was 19 or 20 I actually used to drive across it in the mornings, with all the trucks and cars going across it. It had completely outlived its usefulness at that point back in the late 1970s and early 80s.

The Esplanade is in a similar situation. The traffic it is carrying is way beyond its capacity.

There has been an issue relating to The Pillars that I have raised here on numerous occasions, and that has basically resulted in finger-pointing between the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and the former minister for roads. It is sort of, ‘It’s their fault. It’s their fault’.

That is a contributing factor, but there are frequent failures and frequent landslips, sometimes closing the road for six months at a time. I think most recently 2020 was the last one.

The other issue is the issue of the management of the road. VicRoads have been trying to offload it to the shire council for many, many years. Probably for the best part of 10 years VicRoads have been saying, ‘No, you can have it; you can have it’. The council, quite rightly, is saying, ‘We don’t believe the ratepayer should take on this sort of liability, which will probably run into millions of dollars, to stop the Esplanade slipping into the sea’.

So it is not just one issue. It is not just a traffic issue. It is not just conflict with bikes. It is the whole issue of the road between Mount Martha village and effectively Safety Beach.

This is not a quick fix. It needs some urgent attention. It needs a working party perhaps established with the council and some serious action taken, because this road is rapidly becoming a serious issue.

So I would appreciate the minister’s support with urgent action and getting something happening with this.

Stop playing politics – Make road safety bipartisan

Legislative Assembly 5 April 2022

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:48): I think the member for Sunbury is probably right: the level of road investment in this state is unmatched; it has never been as poor as it is right now.

I certainly do not need 3 minutes to talk about the road projects that are occurring in my electorate, because there are not any. There might be an occasional bit of resheeting, a little bit of maintenance, but there are no projects underway and there have not been in any year that Labor has been in power in this century and a little bit before.

The Road Safety Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 is straightforward. It amends the Road Safety Act 1986 and the Transport Accident Act 1986, basically intending to achieve three outcomes.

It aims to enhance enforcement against distracted behaviour—people on their phones, texting or trying to find the next podcast, everything else you can do on a smartphone—and enhance enforcement against a failure to wear seatbelts. Absolutely crazy: why would you get into a motor vehicle and ignore the safety device that is closest to you, the seatbelt? It is just absolutely crazy. But we know it is happening, and we know that we do not have enough police on the road to enforce this in the way we have traditionally done in the past. As someone mentioned, there is an opportunity to use technology. So that is what this is about.

The second point is about strengthening the licence suspension powers where a serious road safety offence is alleged and there is a risk to public safety.

The final change is around the transport accident scheme. On the one hand this is tightening the eligibility requirements where particular offences may have been committed and compensation would be, to put it mildly, inappropriate and in many ways morally wrong. The second change deals with anomalies that potentially disadvantage people who may be involved in a second collision and therefore be penalised by having the support that they have been receiving reduced.

The background to this legislation is that while road safety has improved enormously in this state over an extended period, you have only got to look at the graph that was included in the government’s own road safety strategy. It makes it clear that road safety has, despite the enormous growth in vehicles on roads, improved enormously since the 1960s.

I was just looking back this afternoon, and I well remember as a kid the Sun’s ‘Declare war on 1034’ campaign. The headline was ‘Let’s end this grim harvest of tragedy’, and when you look at the way the numbers were increasing at that time, it really is very, very unpleasant reading. This article refers to the 1969 figure of 1034.

The high-water mark for deaths on the road was 1061 the following year. But the article was suggesting that mathematically it was likely—this was in, I think, November 1970—that the road toll for 1970 would finish up as 1118. Thankfully it did not, but had it done, it would have been 22 people every week.

Of course the reference there is very much to the decision of the government, on the recommendation of the Road Safety Committee, to require Victorians to wear seatbelts. The report, which I have in my hand, handed down in September 1969, made some pretty tough recommendations, including within two years the compulsory wearing of seatbelts.
The reason I raise this is because one of the factors on that graph that I referred to is that basically since this government was elected the numbers have plateaued and in fact they are starting to increase. All the way from 1970 the graph is in a downward trend until we get to the election of this government, then it flattens out and starts to ease up again. Unfortunately one of the first things the government did was in fact to abolish the Road Safety Committee, which had ensured that road safety was considered to be a bipartisan issue. Both sides had an investment in that.

There are a few smirks going on in the chamber, but when you look at the history of this, the 1969 report, the opposition and the government—then a Liberal government—were included in the make-up of this committee. The report talks about a survey conducted by the RACV. When you look at the numbers, fewer than half of the population supported compulsory seatbelts.

More than half of the population opposed compulsory seatbelts, yet the committee went ahead and made recommendations that seatbelts should be compulsory in a range of situations immediately and then within two years be compulsory across the state. They were able to do that because they had that bipartisan membership and the issue was able to be pushed hard by both sides.

Sadly, as a result of this government’s actions, we have lost that bipartisan approach. The government would rather play politics with this issue—not all members of the government, and I certainly do not include the current minister in this category—but too many people want to play politics with road safety, and road safety is about the loss of human life.

As the government’s strategy makes very clear, it is not good reading, and it is something that has really got to be turned around. Frankly, I do not take much joy from the strategy, although the issues that we are dealing with this afternoon I think are of value. There is not a lot in it.

One concern I very much do have is that towards the end of the strategy there is talk about safety performance indicators and output indicators. They are all generalities. We have not seen the specifics. There are some issues that are to be dealt with by 2030, but how are we going to know that the strategy is on track, how are we going to know that the strategy is actually having an impact, unless we see those numbers? And of course, apart from the raw numbers—the number of serious accidents, the number of people killed on the road; we know those headline numbers—we do not know how we are tracking in so many other areas. Mobile phones, texting—we are dealing with that this afternoon. We are not doing anything at this stage to deal with the epidemic of drug driving, we are doing very, very little in terms of drunk driving, in terms of .05 breaches—those numbers are just not getting any better. So I think there is a long way to go.

In terms of the changes that are being made this afternoon, as I mentioned there are some changes around technology, so allowing cameras, through the use of artificial intelligence, to detect—and then it being verified by humans. The information provided by the government after the briefing was that we currently have an offence rate of 2.4 per cent. One in 42 drivers is using their mobile phone. Frankly, I would not be surprised if it was much higher than that, but even if it is one in 42, it is an epidemic problem. Hopefully this change will go some way to dealing with this.

On the changes around licence suspension, serious offences, whether it is leaving the scene of an accident, whether it is a range of issues around protecting emergency services workers or whether it is around the final issue of dangerous or negligent driving—all of those issues—are dealt with, and dealt with reasonably.

On the final one, as I mentioned earlier, the transport accident changes, the only point I would make on that is that the measure that is intended to prevent further loss of earnings is not retrospective. I think it is reasonable to ask: why is that not retrospective? The response we had back from the government was, ‘It would be a significant administrative burden’. Perhaps it would be, but what about the impact on the individual? I am sure it is a much more significant impact on the individual than it would be an administrative burden.

So I think it is a step in the right direction. There is a lot more to be done. We desperately need more enforcement beyond cameras. We need cops on the road. We need people wondering when they are going to pop up. It is a step in the right direction, but if we could make this a truly bipartisan effort, we would have much more success.

Time to fund Mornington Safe Link

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (14:08): The Mornington Safe Link project is a plan to construct a shared footway for cycling and walking along the old railway reserve between Mount Eliza and Mornington.

The existing Peninsula Link trail terminates at Moorooduc station, Mount Eliza. The Mornington tourist rail runs along the rail reserve from Moorooduc, and a shared pathway along the route has been discussed for more than a decade.

The Mornington Peninsula shire considers this to be a near shovel-ready project and have described it as priority one for the bay trail. The council has shown its commitment to the project by committing $300 000 as part of the coming financial year’s budget.

Of course $300 000 is a lot of money, but it is only the first step in the project.

The remaining cost, as I understand it, is $6 million, and that is beyond the budgetary scope of any individual council. But in any case this is a project that will have considerable appeal to bike riders and walkers from right across Melbourne and indeed right across Victoria. It is not a project that should be left to the ratepayers of the Mornington shire.

I have raised this issue in the Parliament on a number of occasions. In November 2014 the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change responded to an adjournment request, noting that any future funding for the project would be the subject of normal budgetary processes.

As we are now close to being back to normal budgetary processes, and we are very close to the 2021–22 budget, I again call on the minister to fund this important project.

Nepean Hwy/Wooralla Drive Intersection – Action is long overdue!

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (19:21): (5092) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, who I am delighted to see in the chamber.

The action I am seeking is the installation of cameras at the intersection of Nepean Highway, Wooralla Drive and Mount Eliza Way in Mount Eliza.

Now, I do not want to be too hard on the minister, but I did write to him on this matter three months ago and I have not yet received a response. I know he has been busy putting extra bus services into the marginal seat of Nepean, trying to shore up the fortunes of the member for Nepean down there, but this is I think an important safety issue.

In that letter I included an email from a constituent, and I will just read a few bits from that email:

At about 10.01 am I was, during my daily walk, crossing Nepean Highway … at the corner … with Mt Eliza Way and Wooralla Drive. I was midway across the first 3 lanes. Traffic had stopped at the red lights, when I heard a horn sounding to my right and a black SUV … hooned through, dodging a car already stopped … Had it not then changed lanes yet again … I would be dead.

… several drivers were in shock, as I believe was I. I kept walking—adrenaline can be a helpful thing—

and I think I would agree on that—

and when I returned home I did report the incident to the Mornington police … Unfortunately they really can’t do anything, as that intersection does not have any surveillance cameras.

My question is—what action needs to be taken to install … cameras at that intersection? There are often accidents there … the policeman I spoke with admitted it is a bad intersection.

I can certainly support that view. This is an intersection that has a large private school on one corner, a very busy state primary school on the other corner, and of course it is the intersection with the Nepean Highway.

It is a very busy stretch and there have been issues, including one involving a member of my own staff a number of years ago.

This is just another location in the Mornington electorate that desperately needs an investment in terms of road funding.

I have raised in this place frequently the issue of Uralla Road in Mount Martha; the issue of Forest Drive in Mount Martha; the lack of a school safety zone outside Balcombe Grammar School on the Nepean Highway; congestion on Bungower Road, the main access to Peninsula Link; and congestion on Mornington-Tyabb Road.

There are a significant number of roadworks and road safety measures needed in the Mornington electorate.

They are in some cases, I appreciate, big-ticket items and probably not appropriate to be raising in the context of a request in an adjournment debate, but the issue I raise is a modest amount of money, and I urge the minister to take action on that front.

Balcombe Grammar School Speed Zone – What’s Happening?

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (12:55): (4733) My question is for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety.

The issue is the lack of appropriate speed reductions during school times outside Balcombe Grammar School on the Nepean Highway at Mount Martha.

This is an issue I have raised on numerous occasions in the house, because unlike other locations in the electorate, the speed limit is a constant 80 kilometres per hour. It is not reduced, so it is dangerous.

In December 2019 I again raised this issue with the then minister and requested renewed consideration. The minister responded in January and indicated that the site visit and pedestrian count would be undertaken.

The school is not aware that this has occurred, and that is not surprising given the events of this year. But equally, with things getting back to normal, it is not appropriate yet to get an accurate figure this year.

So the question is: has the site visit occurred?

If so, when was it undertaken and what was the result?

If not, will the count be undertaken in term 1, 2021?

Forest Drive and Uralla Road – Why Are We Still Waiting?

I have frequently raised concerns about the condition of Nepean Highway between Balcombe Creek and Forest Drive in Mount Martha.

The volume of traffic using that stretch of the road increased enormously when Peninsula Link opened. During the term of the former coalition government, at my urging, the speed limit south of Balcombe Grammar was reduced.

The then Minister for Roads initiated preliminary consideration of potential solutions.

At the first sitting of the last Parliament, I raised the issue again and urged the new government to keep up the momentum.

Unfortunately that did not happen. Some diversionary tactics, like the Mount Martha access study, were undertaken but nothing of substance.

In 2018 the commonwealth, persuaded by the member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, committed $10 million to fix problems at both Uralla Road and Forest Drive. Now, in May 2020, despite having that $10 million worth of funding, still nothing has been done and those dangerous intersections remain.

So the question is simple: when will the government finally act to fix these dangerous intersections?

Main Street Traffic Lights – 10th Request

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Roads, and the action I seek is for the minister to arrange to fund the installation of traffic lights in the southern section of Main Street in Mornington.

I think this is actually the 10th time I have raised this issue in the Parliament.

Throughout the course of the last Parliament I requested action from the then minister because there is a serious risk of a fatality or a maiming accident in this location.

Unfortunately nothing occurred in that Parliament, but I have got to say that in this Parliament some works have actually been undertaken. We have had the reconstruction of a pedestrian refuge, the new construction of another and the introduction of a 40-kilometre-an-hour speed limit, with flashing lights and so on.

But the situation remains dangerous. I do want to acknowledge those works and thank the current minister for the responsiveness she has shown, but unfortunately I do not believe the works have gone far enough.

Traffic counts taken over the last three years, from 2016, suggest that the average daily volume on Main Street is 18 000 vehicles a day. I think I have made the comment in the house before that while that figure in itself is significant, the fact is that most of those 18 000 vehicles travel down Main Street during business hours or in the hour either side.

Certainly I avoid pulling out onto Main Street like the plague during those hours because it is hard enough in a vehicle; I certainly would not want to try and cross Main Street on foot during that time.

When I leave the office around about this time or a bit later in the evening, of course you could shoot a cannon up the street and it is very, very easy. The overwhelming majority of those 18 000 vehicles are travelling down the street probably between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm or thereabouts—exactly when people are trying to cross.

Question: Traffic Volumes on Tyabb Rd at Racecourse Road

MR MORRIS (Mornington) (12:44:06): (623) My question is to the Minister for Roads in the other place.

Since Peninsula Link opened, traffic along Mornington-Tyabb Road has increased significantly. While there are issues along the entire length of the road, the section between Nepean Highway and Moorooduc Highway is now badly congested, particularly at peak hour but frequently at other times throughout the day.

One of the worst intersections is at Racecourse Road, currently a single-lane roundabout.

There is considerable traffic exiting Racecourse Road both northbound and southbound onto Mornington-Tyabb Road. Traffic on the road itself is already high, generating a significant bottleneck.

There is no pedestrian crossing in this area despite the large number of students walking from the Mornington East area to Mornington Secondary College and to other schools. The only way to cross the road is by dodging through the oncoming traffic.

So the question to the minister is: on what date or dates were the most recent traffic counts undertaken at or near the intersection of Mornington-Tyabb Road and Racecourse Road, what was the traffic volume recorded and what is the practical maximum daily two-way traffic capacity at this location?

Are the Main St Traffic Counts Really Accurate?

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:17): (541) I raise a matter for the Minister for Roads, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that she direct VicRoads to undertake an analysis of the traffic signal detector counts for the intersection of the Nepean Highway and Main Street, Mornington, recorded in January 2016, January 2018 and May 2018 and provide a breakdown of the number of vehicles entering Main Street from Mornington-Tyabb Road, entering Main Street from the Nepean Highway southbound carriageway, entering Main Street from the Nepean Highway northbound carriageway, exiting Main Street into Mornington-Tyabb Road, exiting Main Street onto the Nepean Highway southbound carriageway and exiting Main Street onto the Nepean Highway northbound carriageway.

In response to a constituency question lodged on 23 May last year the then Minister for Roads and Road Safety responded that VicRoads had undertaken traffic counts using traffic signal detectors at that intersection in January 2016, January 2018 and May 2018 and that the two-way average traffic volume in Main Street was 18 400 vehicles, 18 000 vehicles and 17 300 vehicles per day respectively.

There is a webpage on the VicRoads website titled ‘How traffic signals work’, which I accessed earlier today. That page indicates that traffic signals in Victoria have detectors in each lane at the stop line of every intersection. It goes on to say that you can see the outline of the rectangular loops at most intersections.

The detectors allow the system to collect a range of information, including the number of vehicles waiting, the number of vehicles using the intersection, what movements need a green signal and how long the green signal should be. It appears that these are the detectors that provided the data for the former minister’s response last year.

While I have no difficulty with the information provided, there is an issue that needs to be resolved, and that is how those elements of the intersection that do not contain a stop line are handled. It would appear that they may not be considered as part of that particular traffic light system.

In this case the intersection access from Main Street to the northbound lane of the Nepean Highway and the access to Main Street from the northbound carriageway of the Nepean Highway do not contain stop lines; they contain slip lanes only.

In the absence of stop lines it would appear that vehicles accessing Main Street and exiting Main Street through those slip lanes may not be counted under this system, so the provision of an analysis in the manner that I am requesting the minister have undertaken will allow reconciliation between the total number of vehicles recorded as using the intersection and an indication of the numbers using each of the other access and egress points.

Main Street Traffic – New Counts Needed

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:13:47) —  I raise a matter this evening for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, and the action I am seeking from the minister is that he direct VicRoads to immediately undertake a tube traffic count in the southern section of Main Street, Mornington, and to transmit the resulting count to myself and to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.

This is a locale that I have raised on a number of occasions in adjournments over the last 18 months or so. It is a very highly trafficked area. It is an area that is under the control of and managed by VicRoads, although they have been trying to off-load it to the council for a number of years now.

In August 2017 I asked the minister to provide traffic counts for Main Street, and he came back to me with a figure of just under 15 000 vehicles a day as a two-way count.

In February this year I asked him when those counts were undertaken as they seemed to be a little bit low. He responded and indicated that they were in fact undertaken in February 2014, so it is very close to five years since those counts were undertaken and of course there has been significant growth in traffic in that time.

In that second response the minister also indicated that VicRoads had undertaken traffic counts using the traffic signal detectors at the intersection of Nepean Highway and Main Street in January 2016, January 2018 and May 2018 and had come up with volumes of around about 18 000 vehicles a day, slightly lower in May.

The issue with those more recent counts, though, is if they are using the traffic signal indicators to count them, you would capture traffic from vehicles turning right into Main Street from the southbound lane of Nepean Highway and you would capture traffic continuing on to Main Street from Mornington-Tyabb Road but you would not capture the traffic — or I do not believe you would capture the traffic — turning left from the northbound lane of the Nepean Highway onto Main Street.

If that is a notional 25 per cent of total volume, and it could easily be that high, then in fact we are not talking about 18 000 vehicles a day, we are potentially talking about 22 500 vehicles a day.

The minister has already indicated that the two-way traffic capacity for Main Street would be between 20 000 and 28 000 vehicles a day. If it has not reached that point already, it is getting very, very close to that tipping point.

The main concern with this locale is pedestrian safety. There is a refuge in the middle of the street but there is a dire need for a crossing. VicRoads is reluctant to put one in, but we need those traffic counts to give us accurate figures to demonstrate the need.

Legislative Assembly 6 September 2018