A newly sealed section of the Silver City Highway north of Broken Hill will double as an airstrip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
The 684 km highway runs north-south from Victoria to Queensland through Broken Hill, roughly parallel with the NSW-South Australia border. It is largely unsealed. Now a $4.7 million upgrade at Shannons Creek has been opened, part of which might make drivers feel like they are about to become airborne.
They will in any case need to look out for planes. NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay, opening the new road, said: “Yesterday we had the pleasure of being involved in the inaugural landing on the new airstrip, which will support the RFDS by providing a safe landing place in the far west of NSW for medical emergencies.
“The airstrip will be operational and safe to use 24 hours a day in all-weather conditions and means residents living on properties in the area who had previously travelled up to two and a half hours to get to a hospital will now be able to get to help faster – possibly saving their life.
“Previously the RFDS had to land on unsealed airstrips on isolated properties in places such as Packsaddle and Milparinka, with property owners bearing the cost of maintaining the landing area. This is a better solution that is safer and far more reliable.” So long as drivers using the road realise that a flying ambulance could descend upon them at any time.
Mr Gay said the upgrade is part of the NSW Government’s $30 million investment to seal the Silver City Highway.
Mark Prior, RFDS General Manager of Base Operations and Service Delivery said the famous aerial medical service welcomed the new airstrip. “It is the first all-weather airstrip in the area, and the first built as part of a state road project. The next closest all-weather airstrip is Tibooburra, which is more than 130 kilometres away.
“This new airstrip will support the local RFDS base in Broken Hill to keep providing services to rural and remote communities. Delivering healthcare services safely is key.”