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Prime Mover Magazine


Victorian roads under maintenance pressure

A new report by Victoria’s Auditor-General has confirmed that the State’s regional roads are in a “very poor “condition.

“The increasing proportion of the state road network in very poor condition presents a growing risk to public safety and increases road user costs,” the report found – adding that not enough funding was allocated to road maintenance.

“As the complexity and cost of maintenance increases, less can be done using the available levels of funding, resulting in an increasing maintenance backlog and lower levels of service for road users.

“Arterial roads [in particular] are having to cope with more traffic and heavier vehicles – since 2007 the number of vehicle kilometres travelled has increased by 9.4 per cent.”

While the Auditor-General acknowledged that the State’s road and traffic authority, VicRoads, is required to do more with less, it also said the body could not demonstrate clearly that it was making the best use of its existing maintenance funds – calling the current approach to road pavement maintenance ‘reactive’ and ‘not optimised’.

“VicRoads needs to manage its limited resources carefully and strategically to ensure the maximum benefit for Victoria,” the report said.

“Without a strategic approach to road pavement maintenance, road conditions will continue to deteriorate and VicRoads will find it increasingly harder to maintain the entire network in a functional condition.”

The Auditor-General acknowledged that funding for VicRoads has decreased since 2010–11 by 16 per cent and maintenance funding by 41 per cent.

“With funding constrained, VicRoads adopts a worst first approach, focusing funds on the most critical maintenance jobs, and does not consider preservation of roads that are not yet in critical condition.

“[However,] current approaches to maintenance have not improved the overall condition of the network of road pavements.”

The Auditor-General also recognised that VicRoads is already in the process of implementing new modelling and management systems to respond to the situation. 

“VicRoads has advised us that it is in the process of updating its asset maintenance strategy,” the Auditor-General’s report said – outlining a range recommendations for a future road maintenance strategy, including the development of new processes for data validation and storage and the publication of “meaningful” reports on road condition and performance against established levels.

VicRoads Chief Executive, John Merritt, was quick to comment on the report, confirming the audit reflected a "past approach" and that the authority was “well advanced in a reform program that is transforming the way we plan and deliver road maintenance across Victoria”.

He explained that a state-wide system was in place to drive the best investment decisions based on a strategic view of the network, and pointed out that the 2017-18 State Budget funding – which doubles expenditure for road pavement maintenance – was based on VicRoads own recommendations.

“Much of the 23,000km of Victoria’s arterial road network was built in the years immediately following World War Two,” he explained.

“In the 1940s and 50s, a 40-tonne truck was one of the largest vehicles on the road, but today those same roads could be carrying vehicles over 80 tonnes.

“The Victorian economy has [also] changed significantly since many of our roads were built. With Melbourne’s rapid growth and the changing transport needs in regional Victoria to support new and emerging industries, there is much more demand on road infrastructure.

“Our goal is to provide a road network that supports communities now and is able to evolve easily to support the needs of future generations.”

VicRoads full response can be found here, the audit is available here.

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