Our say | Highway upgrade passes its biggest test yet

THE upgrade of the Great Western Highway at Kelso appears to have passed its first major test.

When the $100 million upgrade was completed in March, most of the discussion centred on how well it would handle the mass exodus of campers the morning after the Bathurst 1000.

From what we saw on Monday, the answer is “pretty well”.

Traffic was still heavy and drivers had to be patient, but that’s to be expected when close to the population of Bathurst leaves town at the same time.

But it was not as bad as previous years when the highway has been turned into a car park for most of the morning, frustrating workers on the way to the office and parents trying to get their kids to school.

And that wasn’t the only good news.

Police have again praised the behaviour of the vast majority of racegoers across the four days of the Bathurst 1000 after a blitz of local roads recorded pleasingly few incidents.

Of greatest concern were the 319 speeding fines handed out to drivers who inexplicably thought they would not be caught going a few clicks above the speed limit, but just three drink-driving charges from an incredible 5800 random breath tests is something to celebrate.

Three drivers over the limit might still be three too many, but it’s an encouraging improvement on previous years.

“We were very pleased with the behaviour of most people who attended the race, and it was great to see so many families returning to camp on the mountain this year to support the event,” Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said.

“Once again police worked closely with Supercars Australia and Bathurst Regional Council to ensure a safe and enjoyable event.

“Unfortunately, there were some who ignored our advice and tried to spoil the fun for others, but they were quickly identified and dealt with accordingly.”

The Great Race is a very different beast to 20 years ago and the fans descending on Bathurst to join in the fun have also matured.

More families than ever are now coming to the race and that, along with a massively bolstered police presence, has had the desired effect on crowd behaviour.

The message from police has been simple: Behave or stay away.

And the evidence of the weekend just gone suggests that the message is really getting through.