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Westgate Bridge Closed, traffic stuffed!

Westgate Bridge Closed, traffic stuffed!

Westgate Freeway traffic jam caused by the Westgate Bridge closure following a fatality

The traffic in Melbourne’s west was horrible today, caused by a motorcycle fatality on the inbound lanes of the Westgate Bridge.

I’ve been driving around Melbourne for a long time.  From the early 1990’s I worked weekends as a taxi driver.  In the mid 1990’s I was a courier driver, before moving into heavy vehicles.  Between 2004 and 2009 I commuted from the outer east to the outer west for a transport management role.  These days I’m driving trucks around Melbourne and regional Victoria.  Today was the worst traffic I have ever experienced.

Today started with what should have been a simple job, a quick run across town for a simple delivery.  I left the depot in Knoxfield at 6.15am and arrived at my delivery in Melton at 7.25, which was a good time as the morning peak was starting to wind up.  Ten minutes later I was heading back towards Knoxfield, but I was expecting traffic to get busy as I made my way through peak hour.  Just after the Boundry Road exit on the Western Ring Road the traffic started to slow.  This is normal as you approach the merge with the Geelong freeway.  At 8.30am I heard the traffic report on the radio say the Westgate Bridge was closed, so I sent my boss an SMS to say it might take me a bit longer to get back.  That SMS was my understatement of the day.  Three hours later, I still hadn’t made it to the next exit, Millers Road.  Three hours to travel five kilometres!  Finally I made it back to the Knoxfield depot at 2pm.

Today certainly opened my eyes as to what can happen when the main crossing of the Yarra River, from the western suburbs towards Melbourne, is closed.  I don’t want to get into politics, but maybe there is merit in the Western Distributor Project the current state government is undertaking.  At least it will give us a second river crossing in the west, even if it does mean more tolls.

Give trucks room

Calder Hwy tanker rollover (pic Herald Sun)
Pic: Herald Sun
Calder Hwy tanker rollover (Pic The AGE)
Pic: The AGE

There was a horrible truck roll-over crash on the Calder Highway at Keilor yesterday.  A fuel tanker rolled, crushing a car and, sadly, fatally injuring the driver.  A substantial amount of fuel, reported as a mixture of petrol and diesel, leaked from the tanker and into a local creek.  This is one of the biggest crashes in Melbourne for some time, keeping the highway closed in both directions for around 19 hours.

Many people would jump to the conclusion that the truck driver was at fault, however media reports suggest the b-double tanker had to take evasive action to avoid a car merging onto the highway, and crossing lanes, too slowly.  The truck hit the embankment and crashed onto its side.  I’m not sure how accurate this account of the accident is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is true.  As a heavy vehicle driver myself, I too often see car drivers enter freeways unsafely.  (Another growing trend on the road is motorists cruising well below the speed-limit, presumably to avoid speed cameras, which can be just as dangerous as speeding.)  Multi-combination (b-double) fuel tanker drivers would be the most highly trained, and monitored, professional drivers on the road, especially those working for large organisations like Toll or Linfox, so I doubt this driver was any sort of cowboy.  It appears that a motorist, probably just on his daily commute to work, has made a horrible error in judging his speed and road position relative to the 60+ tonne b-double tanker.

Both the Melbourne Hearld-Sun and The AGE have reported extensively on this incident, click the links for more.

Please, take is easy on the road.  Merge on to highways and freeways at a speed relative to the other traffic, and give trucks plenty of room.