Victoria has delivered a welcome but modest dividend to the heavy vehicle sector in its State Budget, according to the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad).
CEO Warren Clark said while it was pleasing to see $42 million allocated for road freight network improvements, bridge upgrades and enhanced heavy vehicle access, much of the outlay was for planning or for spending after 2021-22.
“Governments need to spend money now and focus harder on making our roads safer and more efficient for trucks,” Mr Clark said.
”Projects mentioned in the Budget such as the Keeping Freight Moving measure and the Rutherglen truck route are in their final stages.”
“While funding for improvements to Calder Park Interchange, the M80 Ring Road and the Calder Freeway is welcome, we would have liked to have seen more ‘new money’ spent fast-tracking work in the regions.
“The Budget has allocated $95 million to upgrading and maintaining suburban and regional roads, but a roomful of NatRoad members could have come up with a shopping list three times as large.”
Mr Clark said there was widespread recognition that the State Budget’s focus was on people and responding to a Royal Commission that had exposed a mental health system needing urgent repair.
“Many NatRoad members under stress will be direct or indirect beneficiaries of that so it is an important positive,” Mr Clark said.
Mr Clark said there were sound environmental, productivity and safety reasons for the Government spending money to complete the Port Rail Construction Project,
“But we should never forget that road freight reaches places that rail freight cannot, and that trucks are vital in ‘last-mile’ pick-up and delivery,” Mr Clark said.
“There are concerns that Victoria’s Plan Melbourne – the strategy to mould the state capital into 20-minute neighbourhoods – will overlook practical measures that allow heavy vehicles to bring goods in and out of the suburbs.
“The pandemic lockdown forced many passenger vehicles off the road and delivered a hit to State revenue, but commercial vehicles continued to keep Victoria moving.”