South Eastern Freeway

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South Eastern Freeway

The highway viewed near the eastern portal of the Heysen Tunnels
South Eastern Freeway is located in South Australia
West end
West end
East end
East end
General information
Length76 km (47 mi)
Route number(s) M1 (2017-present)
route number
  • National Highway M1 (1998-2017)
  • National Highway 1 (1974-1998)
  • National Route 1 (1967-1974)
Major junctions
West end Glen Osmond Road (A1)
Glen Osmond, Adelaide
East end Princes Highway (A1)
Murray Bridge, South Australia
Major suburbs / townsCrafers, Adelaide, Stirling, Bridgewater, Hahndorf, Mount Barker, Callington, Monarto
Highway system

The South Eastern Freeway (previously signposted as Princes Highway) is a 76 kilometre controlled-access highway in South Australia. It carries traffic over the Adelaide Hills between Adelaide and the River Murray, near Murray Bridge, connecting via the Swanport Bridge to the Dukes Highway which is the main road route to Victoria. It is often referred to by South Australians simply as the Freeway, as it was the first freeway in South Australia, and is still the longest, and the only one with "Freeway" in its name rather than "Expressway" or "Highway". It is a part of the National Highway network linking the state capital cities Adelaide to Melbourne and signed as National Highway M1. The South Eastern Freeway includes 500-metre-long twin-tube tunnels (the Heysen Tunnels) in the descent towards Adelaide, the first of their kind on the National Highway. It is designated as the M1.


The South Eastern Freeway features 6 lanes of traffic, arrester beds and concrete median barriers, with street lighting between Glen Osmond and Crafers. The remainder of the length to the Swanport Bridge is dual carriageways with two lanes in each direction.


Prior to the initial construction of the freeway in the 1960s, inbound and outbound road traffic between Adelaide and south-eastern South Australia or Victoria used a two-lane highway originally built in the early part of the 20th century. With growth in Adelaide's population issues of congestion and safety mandated reconstruction. Studies began in 1962 for a freeway commencing from Crafers, that endpoint selected arguably due to the massive expenditure required with the precedent upgrade of the Mount Barker Road.[clarification needed]

Road construction began in 1965 from Crafers and the first stage of eastbound traffic lanes were opened in 1967, the first westbound section in 1969. The freeway was opened in stages as construction progressed. The final section bypassing the town of Murray Bridge and connecting to the new Swanport Bridge over the River Murray opened in 1979, providing an alternative to the historic bridge in the town for through traffic.

The Adelaide–Crafers Highway extension came as a much-needed upgrade and replacement to the previous link road, the Mount Barker Road,[1] which had been contoured to the Adelaide Hills, giving rise to many steep turns, ascending a tortuous route. The tightest hairpin turn on the Mount Barker Road was infamous as the Devil's Elbow, often the site of car and semi-trailer accidents.[2]

On 16 May 1995, Prime Minister Paul Keating announced the construction of the new Adelaide-Crafers section. The Heysen Tunnels, named after well-known South Australian artist and benefactor Hans Heysen, were completed in 1998. Construction was completed early 2000 and on 5 March 2000, Prime Minister John Howard opened the new road.[3] It was the largest South Australian road project at that time, costing a total of A$151 million, wholly funded by the Australian Federal Government.

South Eastern Freeway from Mount Barker Summit

An additional exit was built at Monarto around 1999 to service an expanding commercial zone and Monarto Zoo in the area.[4] Another exit was announced in 2014 at Bald Hills Road 4 km southeast of the Mount Barker interchange to service growing housing estates in southern Mount Barker and Nairne.[5][6] The contract was announced on 1 April 2015 that Bardavcol would commence construction in May 2015, with the interchange including entry and exit ramps in both directions. The $27M project was funded $16M by the Australian government, $8M from South Australia and $3M from Mount Barker district council.[7] The new interchange opened on 15 August 2016.[8]

The Freeway bypasses many towns previously along the Princes Highway including

Road safety[edit]

Shortly after the Adelaide-Crafers section opened, several incidents involving semi-trailers drew media attention to the road. While the previous Mount Barker Road was a notorious stretch, its dangers were well known; the new freeway presented the new challenge of a sustained continuous gradient with traffic lights at the bottom. Heavy vehicles with inadequate braking found it hard to slow down once they had exceeded a certain speed; this was made worse with brake failures. It took some time, and the addition of several warning signs prior to the descent, for heavy vehicles to become familiar with the freeway's characteristics. Semi-trailers can be seen travelling as slow as 20–30 km/h downhill. In 2005 changeable electronic road signs were installed every 200 metres, so that the speed limit of the road can be adjusted from Transport SA headquarters in Adelaide. This has both improved safety for commuters, and emergency service workers like the Country Fire Service.

In 2010 and 2011, after more incidents involving trucks having problems successfully braking down the hill, including one going into a bus stop, and another going straight through the intersection at the bottom, the government added new laws that any vehicle with 5 axles or more must stay in the left lane and must not exceed a 60 km/h limit from the interchange at Crafers to the old tollhouse. More Safety cameras are installed in an attempt to ensure trucks abide by this new limit.

Additional signs for the two arrester beds on the descent have also been added, to encourage out of control drivers to use them as a safer alternative.

In August 2014, another truck collided with many cars at the lower part of the highway, killing two people.[9] The sewage truck ran away after the driver, a new employee who had never driven a manual truck before and had never driven any vehicle on this segment of road, lost control after passing the arrestor beds. Driver Darren Hicks was seriously injured and testified against employer Cleanaway at a criminal trial after being granted immunity.[10] The prosecution, brought by Comcare, also heard that the brakes on the vehicle were defective and in 2021 Cleanaway were convicted of eight charges under health and safety legislation.[11]


The Adelaide end of the South Eastern Freeway leads downhill to traffic lights at the intersection of Glen Osmond Road which continues northwest as route number A1 into the Adelaide city centre, Portrush Road which carries the National Highway designation (as A17) north to bypass the city and towards Port Adelaide, and Cross Road which leads west towards the southern suburbs of Adelaide.

The southeastern end of the freeway, near Murray Bridge feeds onto the Swanport Bridge, a two-lane, 1-kilometre-long (0.62 mi) bridge over the River Murray, where it joins the Princes Highway, a dual-carriageway highway to Tailem Bend. At this point, Highway 1 becomes a two-laned, two-way scenic route which passes through many coastal towns of South Australia and Victoria. The National Highway continues to Melbourne as the Dukes Highway (A8) from Tailem Bend to the Victorian border and beyond as the Western Highway.

Exits and intersections[edit]

BurnsideUnleyMitcham tripointGlen OsmondUrrbraeMyrtle Bank tripoint00.0 Glen Osmond Road (A1) north-west / Cross Road (A3) west / Portrush Road (A17) north – Adelaide, Glenelg, PaynehamNorth-western highway terminus at traffic lights
BurnsideMitchamMount Osmond, Leawood Gardens2.21.4Mount Osmond Road – Mount OsmondFour ramp parclo interchange
Leawood Gardens2.8–
Mount Barker Road – Eagle On The HillSouth-eastbound exit and north-westbound entry only; location of the Devils Elbow on Mount Barker Road
Burnside4.12.5Heysen Tunnels northern portal
Adelaide HillsCrafers West4.62.9Heysen Tunnels southern portal
6.74.2Mount Barker Road – Eagle On The HillNorth-westbound exit and south-eastbound entry only
Crafers8.05.0 Mount Lofty Summit Road (B28) – Crafers, Mount Lofty / Waverley Ridge Road (B28)[13]
Stirling9.25.7 Mount Barker Road (B33) – Stirling, Aldgate
Bridgewater13.88.6Carey Gully Road – Bridgewater
159.3Adelaide-Wolseley railway line
Verdun16.810.4 Onkaparinga Valley Road (B34) / Mount Barker Road (B34) – Hahndorf, Verdunramps to/from Adelaide only
Mount BarkerMount Barker, Littlehampton, Totness2516 Adelaide Road (B37) – Mount Barker, Littlehampton, Strathalbyn
Mount Barker, Littlehampton2616Victor Harbor railway line
Mount Barker, Blakiston, Nairne2918Bald Hills Road – Mount Barker, Nairne
Murray BridgeCallington45.728.4Callington Road – Callington
Monarto South54.233.7Ferries McDonald Road – Monarto Safari Park
White Hill63.539.5 Old Princes Highway (B55) – Murray Bridge, White HillRamps to/from Adelaide only
Murray Bridge7446 Swanport Road (B35) – Murray Bridge, Swanport, Wellington
7446 Princes Highway (A1) – to Dukes Highway (A8) & Princes Highway (B1)continues over Swanport Bridge to Tailem Bend


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Old and New Road Names". City of Burnside. 8 March 2006. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2007.
  2. ^ "Crash At Devil's Elbow". The Advertiser (Adelaide). South Australia. 16 October 1936. p. 32. Retrieved 27 October 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "The Adelaide Crafers Highway Project". Government of South Australia, Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure. 13 August 2004. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2007.
  4. ^ Jensen Planning and Design (December 2008). "Existing Land Use". MONARTO SOUTH INTERMODAL AND LAND USE STUDY Final Report (PDF) (Report). Monarto Common Purpose Group. p. 40. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Bald Hills Road Interchange". Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. 16 July 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  6. ^ Nankervis, David (15 July 2014). "Watch how the new Mt Barker freeway interchange at Balds Hill Rd will work". The Advertiser. News Limited. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  7. ^ Jamie Briggs (1 April 2015). "Joint Media Release - Briggs/Mullighan - Delivering the full Bald Hills Road interchange - Wednesday, 1 April 2015" (Press release). Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  8. ^ "New Freeway Interchange Bald Hills Road". Mount Barker District Council. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Horrific South Eastern Freeway truck crash claims second life in Adelaide". Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015.
  10. ^ Dillon, Megan (2 December 2019). "Cleanaway truck driver in double fatality had never driven manual before, court hears". ABC. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  11. ^ Campbell, Claire (19 April 2021). "Cleanaway Operations found guilty of failing to adequately train driver over 2014 freeway crash". ABC. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  12. ^ Google (15 January 2014). "South Eastern Freeway" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Adelaide Hills Council" (PDF). The South Australian Government Gazette. Government of South Australia. 21 June 2001. p. 2351. No 73. Retrieved 1 April 2014.

External links[edit]