The quest by the Flinders and Etheridge Shire Councils to have the sealing of the most direct freight route between Cairns and Melbourne completed was advanced a little more when federal government representatives came to town this week.
Scott Buchholz, the assistant minister for freight transport and road safety, was given a briefing by the Flinders shire on progress made with the $53 million worth of Commonwealth and state funding in 2017 before inspecting it on the ground.
Such is the speed of the Flinders and Etheridge shire work processes that it expects to complete 42km of sealing and widening work by December, months ahead of schedule.
That resulted in a plea to Mr Buchholz to release the next tranche of money, $40m allocated in the 2019/20 budget, so that works could continue seamlessly.
The focus of the council's advocacy remains on getting enough money to complete the work, which it estimates at $30m.
With 27km of the Torrens Creek-Aramac Road seal and flood-proofing Prairie Creek added in, Mr Buchholz, together with LNP Senator Susan McDonald, were told another $58m would be needed from all sources.
The shire has resolved to put its TIDS money from the state government towards the Hann Highway now that it has bitumened the access road to its major tourist attraction, Porcupine Gorge.
Mr Buchholz assured the councillors he had heard their message.
"The Reserve Bank governor has been talking about bringing infrastructure projects forward and that's often more nimbly done in regional areas," he said.
"At the same time, at no time since Flinders walked this land has more money been spent by federal governments on transport in this part of the world."
According to his data, $3 billion has been spent in the Kennedy electorate.
The CSIRO has shown that sealing the Hann Highway would have saved about 5800 hours for an estimated 6500 road trains using the route between 2007 and 2011, and would have cut out 1000 driver fatigue stops.
It estimates an extra 1250 road trains would use the highway if it were fully sealed. Annual cost savings to sheep and cattle transporters equate to $1.57 a head.
Mr Buchholz told the council it would be prudent to tell the relevant government body they were ahead of schedule with their works.
Senator McDonald asked about differences in price estimates due to a higher quality gravel, saying there had been suggestions this was gold plating, but was advised that it was necessary to ensure the road base stood up to the anticipated increase in truck volumes.
Mr Buchholz advised the council to write officially to his office with their request.
Read more: Hann Highway lobby celebrates