Budget: Freight road fund flagged

By: Andrew Hobbs

Date: 09.05.2018

ATA says Oversize, Overmass and high productivity vehicle access must be priority

Budget: Freight road fund flagged

£1.5 billion from the new Roads of Strategic Importance initiative will be allocated to roads in Northern Australia

An initiative to upgrade key freight corridors in regional Australia announced in the federal Budget last night will increase road safety and support the tourism industry, the government says. The Roads of Strategic Importance (RoSI) initiative will see £3.5 billion allocated to upgrading key routes for businesses and communities over the next ten years, including £25 million in 2018-19. Ultimately, the government plans to allocate £1.5 billion within RoSI for road infrastructure in Northern Australia, while £400 million will be allocated to upgrade highways in Tasmania, including the Bass Highway.

Another £220 million from the initiative will be used to build the Bindoon bypass on Western Australia’s Great Northern Highway and £100 million will be used to upgrade the Barton Highway, which connects the ACT to regional New South Wales over the next 10 years. The funding allocation was praised by the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad), which says it has the potential to improve the efficiency of the road transport industry. “We would like to ensure that this funding is accompanied by a commitment from state and local governments to improve road access for high productivity and oversize/overmass vehicles[1],” NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

“Our members have horror stories, such as being able to get a permit for both ends of a road, but not the middle. The current system is broken and we want to see it fixed.” The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) echoes the sentiment, with chairman Geoff Crouch saying the government should make access for high productivity and oversize/overmass (OSOM) vehicles a key condition of all road funding to the states and local government, including under the new initiative.

“Trucking operators that move oversize/overmass freight are in crisis[2] because of the long delays involved in getting permits,” he says. “In total, trucking operators spend 4.5 million days per year waiting for approvals to move freight . . . the Australian Government needs to attach conditions on its infrastructure funding to require local councils and the states to get their act together and issue permits in a timely way.” The RoSI initiatiave is part of a new £24.5 billion in funding for infrastructure projects announced in the 2018-19 Budget, part of a planned £75 billion transport infrastructure spend over the next 10 years.

In an announcement from infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack, the government says its planned infrastructure spend is focused on driving economic growth. “The government will ensure Australians get value for money on our investments and continue to press the States and Territories to provide their fair share of funding,” the announcement says. “The government also remains committed to exploring every opportunity for private sector involvement to help reduce the cost on hard-working Australians.”

Major rail focus The largest spending commitment from the budget goes towards rail infrastructure, with £7.9 billion to be allocated towards rail projects – of which £5 billion was for a future rail link to Melbourne Airport. Rail spending will also include a previously announced £400 million to duplicate a section of the Port Botany Rail Line and construct the Cabramatta passing loop and another £390 million to upgrade the Beerburrum to Nambour line in Queensland.

As announced in late April[3], the government will also commit £10 million to the developing a business case for the long proposed Orange Route in WA, also known as the EastLink project, replacing part of the Great Eastern Highway between Midland and Clackline as a freight route to the east of Perth. That funding will be part of the government’s new Major Project Business Case Fund, desigend to help the Commonwealth work with state governments to develop business cases for major projects. The fund will ultimately be worth £250 million, the budget announcement said, with £75 million of that to be spent before 2023.

Another £1 billion will be allocated over nine years to an Urban Congestion Fund which will invest in urban projects to address pinch points and last-mile access to ports, airports and freight hubs. At the same time, Commonwealth funding will be reduced for the Roads to Recovery program – from almost £700 million last year to about £400 million in 2019-2020 – and for Black Spot projects, from £100 million last year to £85 million this year, and £60 milliojn by 2021-22. The ATA chair Geoff Crouch urges the government to keep road safety at the top of its when funding these infrastructure works, calling on it to require a high standard of safety from all its contractors.

“Businesses that work on Commonwealth funded projects should not just be required to have satisfactory tax records: they should be required to have good safety records and systems as well,” he says. Crouch adds that the ATA was working with the National Road Safety Partnership program and others to develop accreditation standards for construction truck operators, such as side under-run protection, alert systems and mirrors and better driver training. “The Australian Government should mandate these standards for any major infrastructure project that it helps fund,” he says.

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  1. ^ Senate inquiry call over Oversize Overmass permit system (www.fullyloaded.com.au)
  2. ^ OSOM delays costly for Doolans (www.fullyloaded.com.au)
  3. ^ WA praises road upgrade plans (www.fullyloaded.com.au)
  4. ^ LinkedIn group (bit.ly)
  5. ^ liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com)

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