THE Nationals WA has called on the Federal and State governments, in two separate letters, to prioritise the Trans Access Road as an alternative transport route to ensure WA remains connected to the nation during times of disaster.
Member for Mining and Pastoral Region Jacqui Boydell has written to Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Infrastructure Michael McCormack, as well as State Transport Minister Rita Saffioti, urging support for an alternative route when the Eyre Highway is not accessible.
Ms Boydell said WA had very limited options for freight transport if the Eyre Highway was closed for any period of time.
"When this critical stretch of road was closed for 12 days all major transport in and out of WA was cut off, leaving hundreds of travellers and vehicles stranded and shutting down incoming and outgoing freight," Ms Boydell said.
"The only other sealed road out of WA, Victoria Highway in the Kimberley, adds more than 3000 kilometres to a trip east, making it financially prohibitive as an alternative route."
Ms Boydell said an alternative transport route in the south of WA was vital and encouraged the Commonwealth to support the sealing of the Trans Access Road as a priority.
"Upgrading the Trans Access Road is a nation-building project that would ensure Australia remains connected, emergency services have more options and freight disruptions are minimised," she said.
WA has three unsealed roads linking to the Eastern States - the Tanami Track, the Outback Way and the Trans Access Road.
"The Trans Access Road is the shortest length of road to seal - with about 400 kilometres of existing unsealed road and up to 200km of new road which could be built between Rawlinna and Caiguna to link with the Eyre Highway," Ms Boydell said.
"This project also has the ability to utilise the existing workforce, machinery and services available in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and has strong support from local government."
Ms Boydell also encouraged the governments to consider ways to fire-proof the Eyre Highway and to progress the development of the Kalgoorlie Intermodal Transport Hub.
"The proposed transport hub would create more opportunities for rail freight, bring economic benefits to the Goldfields and improve road safety by reducing truck movements," she said.
Ms Boydell praised the work of the many volunteers from the region who had participated in fighting the fires and providing support to stranded travellers.
"The Goldfields community spirit was on full display over recent weeks and I commend all those involved for their efforts," she said.
In Ms Saffioti's letter, Ms Boydell said she understood the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder planned to submit a proposal to develop the Trans Access Road.
"I express my strong support for this nation-linking project and believe it is something the State government should also support," she said.
"While upgrading the Trans Access Road is a priority in ensuring food and transport security for WA, I accept a project of this magnitude will not occur overnight.
"In the interim, I believe State government funding support to fire proof the Eyre Highway by creating fire-breaks up to 100 metres on either side of the road in risk prone areas and working to progress the long-anticipated Kalgoorlie lntermodal Transport Hub will minimise future disruptions or closures to the Eyre Highway.
"This nationally significant piece of infrastructure will require assistance both financially and strategically from the State and Commonwealth.
"I hope you can consider this proposal as our State and nation recovers and rebuilds from the devastating fires that have ravaged our country in recent months."
The Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of WA (LRTAWA) is in favour of sealing the Trans Access Road but "we recognise this will be costly", said its chief executive officer Jan Cooper.
"We shouldn't sit back and do nothing whilst funding is agreed," Ms Cooper said.
"In the interim, urgent work should commence to ensure it is an all-weather route as it needs immediate improvement.
"We have members regularly using it to deliver fuel to stations and to transport their livestock.
"Because of the road condition, they must travel at reduced speed for long distances which adds time and cost.
"We are also supportive of strategies that would reduce the impact of fire and other emergencies on all major highways in WA as interruptions to supply routes cost transport companies significantly and disadvantage rural communities."