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Prime Mover Magazine

NatRoad supports developing price regulator on infrastructure investment

Amid calls from prominent economists for Australia to increase its investment in infrastructure, the National Road Transport Association has announced it supports a proper evaluation by an independent agency particularly in regard to planning road systems for businesses running heavy vehicles.

According to NatRoad CEO Warren Clark, the establishment of a regulator was urgently needed to help on how tolled roads are planned, built and operated.
"At present, the process of deciding which roads should be tolled and how they are integrated into the road system is poorly planned," he said.

“The setting up of an independent price regulator for heavy vehicles is long overdue and is an essential step in maintaining the long term viability and productivity of the road freight transport industry," said Clark.

"Independent price regulation should aim to replace the current charging system that funds road construction which is a fuel based road user charge, administered as a reduction in fuel tax credits, and registration charges."

According to Clark an independent pricing regulator would possess a broad regulatory role including regulating and monitoring toll fees and landside port charges, in light of what he describes as a current lack of transparency and fairness in setting tolls and landside port charges for heavy vehicles.

Clark added that the regulator must be empowered to solve issues with toll roads that three Parliamentary inquiries have failed to address including the lack of transparency and fairness in setting toll fees for heavy vehicles; the lack of competition in private toll road operation;
heavy vehicle operators paying for road network improvements through increases in tolls without experiencing the promised efficiencies; and governments forcing heavy vehicles to use tolled roads by banning them from alternative routes.

“Infrastructure spending is vital for the health of the Australian economy and for a viable road transport industry,” said Clark.

Earlier this month, International Monetary Fund Economist Thomas Helbling, when speaking with the Australian Financial Review, said downgrades in forecasts for the economy were predicated on property market downturn and resultant decline in growth needed to be offset with infrastructure spending.

The ambitious capital expenditure plan of $100 billion over the next 10 years by the Federal Government highlighted the investment already underway in infrastructure.

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