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Supply Chain Risk

Tanami Road included in pressure on federal government to deliver road funding

Months after Australia’s only cross-country road and rail freight routes were cut off by flooding, the federal budget plans to drive two new routes through the remotest parts of the country a lifeline.

The sealing of the Tanami Road, which runs from Halls Creek in WA to Alice Springs and the Outback Way between Laverton in Western Australia and Winton in Queensland, has long been advocated for — with the federal budget leaving significant money available for both projects.

The announcement flagged $400 million dollars to seal the Tanami Road from Halls Creek to the WA border, while $676 million was earmarked to continue efforts to seal the Outback Highway.

The funding is conditional and hinges on business cases demonstrating value for money and public benefit. 

‘Absolutely essential’

Supply chain expert Elizabeth Jackson said recent natural disasters — including floods that cut off WA to the rest of Australia in January — had propelled the issue back onto the political agenda.

“Our current systems are nowhere near resilient enough particularly for a nation that is so exposed to natural disasters,” Dr Jackson said.

“These outback lifelines are now being considered more seriously as being major arteries for road transport, which is absolutely essential.

A rough gravel road in a straight line into a big horizon
The Tanami Road is a vital link between Central Australia and the north of WA but has never had enough money for an upgrade.(ABC Kimberley)

Will promises be delivered?

The Tanami Road project was added to Infrastructure Australia’s priority list in 2016. Previously, limited progress had been made from Halls Creek to the WA-NT Border in securing funding to start works.

Despite significant commitments from the Commonwealth to seal the rest of the route from the state border to Alice Springs, only a few kilometres of road has been sealed to date.

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