ATA and Opposition wrong on truck charges: ARA

The peak rail body claims the Opposition and the ATA must back higher road user charges

The peak rail body says the federal Opposition and the truck lobby must back revised heavy vehicle charges because the current system is unfairly slanted toward the trucking industry.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Chief Executive Bryan Nye says the Rudd Government’s proposed road user charge increase is the key to restoring balance between road and rail pricing.

"The continuing undercharging of heavy vehicle transport will result in more trucks on the major highways and less freight on safer and more environmentally efficient rail transport," Nye says.

While saying the industry understands the need for more rest areas along vital road freight routes, the ARA says it is no justification for the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Opposition refusing to support the reform.

The ARA says the Government should not be forced into building a set number of rest areas in return for increasing the charges because the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill is designed to bring about better transport policies.

"Simply put, a vote for these charges is a vote for better transport policy. To delay or continually degrade the legislation is clearly anti-rail," Nye says.

The ARA also reiterated calls for mass-distance location charging, saying it should be accepted as soon as possible.

"The sooner we move to mass-distance location charging as proposed by the Productivity Commission, the NTC [National Transport Commission] and [Professor Ross] Garnaut, which is also being widely adopted throughout Europe, the better."

If passed, the Bill will raise the excise to 21 cents a litre. The Government may also increase the charge in line with infrastructure costs.

The ATA has refused to back the Bill, claiming the Government will have the power to annually index charges by as much as 7 percent.

It wants the Government to build at least 90 rest areas a year in return for any annual increase.

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