After more than a year of debate and public submissions, the Victorian government is pressing ahead with getting rid of the “emergency help phones” that are a familiar sight on the side of freeways.
Last year, prompted by the high cost of maintaining the fixed-line phones, the state's government opened up a public consultation about ditching them. Its argument was that, at least for metropolitan freeways and motorways, everybody travels with a mobile phone. The ubiquity of mobiles means that when drivers break down, they whip out their own phone instead of walking hundreds of meters to call for help.
VicRoads said the total cost of maintaining Melbourne's 590 emergency phones, at AU$370,000 annually, or about $1,000 per call.
The process started with the phones on Melbourne's West Gate Bridge, removed in 2011. Melbourne's M80 ring road will be the next to lose its 77 phones, the ABC reports, with VicRoads beginning the process of removing them this week.
With the phones gone, the state's traffic authority's advice to stuck motorists will be to stay inside their vehicles and call for help, because people killed while changing tyres while in the emergency lane is a depressingly-regular feature of the news.
VicRoads adds that nobody should be stranded for too long, since city motorways have heavy CCTV coverage anyhow. Country freeways are a different matter: lacking CCTV and with patchy mobile coverage, they'll keep their emergency phones. ®