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Prime Mover Magazine


Freight focus group supports road-pricing change

On a panel of logistics industry experts at the Future of Freight event held by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Melbourne on 17 July, John Fullerton, CEO of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) voiced his support for an increase in use-based charging for Australia’s road networks.

“At the end of the day, infrastructure has to be priced on usage,” he said. “We see it on rail today, we see it in telecommunications, and in the energy sector – you use it, you pay based on volume consumption.”

“Road pricing is inevitable, it has to happen because that way you can get some proper decision making around how best to invest your funds.”

He added that in the future, that decision making may well be taken out of the hands of those currently responsible for it, due to a move towards green transport.

“A lot of road expenditure is recovered from fuel excise on vehicles that are now far more productive than they have ever been,” Fullerton said. “Plus we can all see the move to electric vehicles and electric trucks happening, inevitably governments won’t be able to cover revenues from fuel excises because there will be less and less fuel consumed.”

“It is common sense to introduce a road-charging mechanism where, particularly on heavy vehicles, for every tonne of freight carried over a kilometre, and on particular corridors that may attract higher rates than other sorts of corridors.”

The recovered revenue could then flow back into government, he explained, to be reinvested, whether in rail or road, to get the best investment and most productive return for the economy.

“I think we’re heading in that direction,” he said. “It’s been slow, and it should happen quicker, but I’m certainly seeing at a federal level there’s a great appetite to move in this direction.

Maurice James, Managing Director of Qube, agreed that a different pricing regime is inevitable, suggesting a price scheme based on higher fees to access in-demand routes, and added that he hopes measures to ease urban congestion in Melbourne will also be implemented in the coming years.

“I feel that the biggest issue here in Victoria is we’ve almost got a disconnect between urban planning and urban policy frameworks, and freight planning and the policy that goes into freight,” he said.

He encouraged event attendees from the Victorian Government to think about how the region’s freight supply chain can be addressed in order to deliver efficiencies.

“I think Melbourne’s geography has been its strength,” he said, noting that 10 or 15 years ago, Melbourne was held up as a beacon in comparison with Sydney’s congestion. “[It] has a great road network, in terms of City Link, West Gate and the Monash [Freeway], but now […] that’s a congested network.”

He called for a freight system whereby goods brought into the Port of Melbourne would be more efficiently transported to their destination, where at present they are moved to the city’s western suburbs from the Port, then often back over to the east to their final destination.

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