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Prime Mover Magazine

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Peter Anderson

We need more roads

September 2018

We are certainly going through some exciting times in Australia with respect to the investment and commitment by local, state and Commonwealth governments to the building of new transport  infrastructure.

The interest and growth in building roads, rail, ports and more efficient airport access has never been greater, which is encouraging in the context of unprecedented population growth and the associated doubling of the freight task expected over the next decade.

It has finally dawned on legislators that Australians are fed up with crippling congestion on our roads, and that there are votes to be had by those prepared to do more to ease congestion by providing greater public transport options, and by improving existing, and building new, road infrastructure.

Australia is scheduled to be spending $17 billion dollars a year by 2020 on major transport infrastructure development and this will continue over the proceeding five years.

While here in Victoria we have historically, ‘dragged our heels’ over the past 10 years on infrastructure development, we are now in boom times when it comes to infrastructure  spending.

Finally, there are emerging signs of consensus between the Commonwealth and Victorian governments on joint spending to get the state with the fastest growing population and economy moving, and this positive pivot towards better state/federal relations must continue regardless of the outcomes of pending elections.

The VTA has welcomed the Victorian Government’s release of the Victorian Freight Plan, and with it the establishment of Freight Victoria as the co-ordination agency for delivering the Plan and ensuring Victoria retains the mantle as the freight capital of Australia.

Freight Victoria and the Victorian Freight Plan is about creating greater efficiency and productivity in supply chains which impacts every part of the economy and is fundamental for job creation and growth, which is what we need to be  prosperous.

The roads of the future we need in Victoria are pivotal to the plan, as are further investments in rail and ports. A key part of the plan is to shift more freight onto rail through the creation of new inland freight terminals and a freight precinct adjacent to the Port of  Melbourne.

These are precisely the kind of greater intermodal transport solutions the VTA has been advocating for, with the emphasis on rail freight integration thereby alleviating congestion on our  roads.

More emphasis on rail freight does not translate into less emphasis on road freight because as I have long said, ships and trains carry freight but only trucks deliver. So, road freight operators should also welcome the plan.
As an industry we must encourage and applaud this attitude towards providing for the future economy and productivity. Any new road is a good road in the context of soaring consumer demand for goods, and intermodal connectivity with rail and sea must also be encouraged and developed.

Inevitably the conversation will pivot towards funding models for the implementation of multiple and concurrent projects worth tens of billions of dollars. Such sizable projects all require money and financial commitment.
Governments and the taxpayers that fund them can only do so much, which is where private enterprise will increasingly take on a share of the financial burdens. While the taxpayer and industry will always end up ultimately paying, the vision and commitment to build must be encouraged and supported.

An example of this is in the development of Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel and Sydney’s WestConnex. These are two essential projects that will see enormous productivity gains for freight operators and the broader economy, and amenity and environmental improvements for residents in and around the communities the projects impact.

With private enterprises partnering with state governments, projects of this size and scale can become reliable significantly quicker than if they were sponsored by governments alone.

The Victorian Transport Association supports and applauds the approach of state governments and private road operators like Transurban have taken in leading the development of major transport networks.

For our economy and industry to benefit from the roads and other transport infrastructure we need to support our growing community. Private enterprise is a vital part of the equation, and their involvement is wholeheartedly endorsed by the VTA.

Peter Anderson
Victorian Transport Association

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