By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Finke was terrific, right up to the exhausted end when half the town made its way home from the start-finish line and hundreds of camps along the track.
The result was again the once a year traffic jam, with the Show being the other major one, except the distance is much shorter.
Anywhere else road rage would be at boiling point: Here it was the opposite – road love could be the word for it (with one or two exceptions).
Take the intersection where, coming from Adelaide, you turn left to get into town.
Oddly the traffic on the Stuart Highway does not have priority. You need to give way to vehicles approaching from the airport on the Santa Teresa Road (see the triangular sign at the left-hand side of the photo).
In most places I can think about, the scene would be set for the motorists on the priority road (those coming from the Old South Road, in our case) would close rank bumper to bumper, the odd middle finger would point skywards, and the language would turn blue.
Not with the Finke mob (there was practically no-one else around): Five or six cars would go, the next one would stop, let in five or six cars from the other road, and so on. There would be thumbs up, big waves. Then, mixed together, they would proceed towards town at snail’s pace.
It took an 8HA interviewee the best part of two hours to get from the start-finish line to the radio station.
As one of the lucky ones turning right at Colonel Rose Drive I don’t know first hand what happened beyond that point.
Traffic has to slow down to 60 km/h at The Gap but that’s still a lot better than the crawl the column was doing when I was in it.
I checked with the constabulary on Tuesday whether there had been traffic control by police at the Tom Brown roundabout, just north of The Gap.
A smooth flow into that roundabout would be essential for avoiding delays further south because the traffic splits four ways at that intersection.
No, there was no traffic control, was the answer from the police: “There were no traffic issues at that location, it was all south of Ilparpa Road.”
How come? As someone who’s been using that part of the Stuart Highway most days in the past 40 years I know it as a swift 80 km/h through road.
I asked the police: “What caused the traffic to slow to a crawl south of Ilparpa Road? Was there police traffic control at the Ilparpa intersection?”
I’ve been told by a motorist police were diverting drivers at the Ilparpa turn-off to a breath test station in Len Kittle Drive.
But no further answer from the police so far. I hope we get one before the next Finke.
UPDATE 2:30pm June 15:
From police: A two vehicle collision at the Welcome to Alice Springs sign caused extensive issues and then the traffic volume exceeded the infrastructure capabilities.”