Councils blasted over clearways position

VTA accuses Melbourne councils of holding industry "at ransom" over refusal to extend clearway times

Melbourne councils are resisting a State Government push to extend clearway times, leading to claims it will increase freight costs and drive up congestion.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has entered the political fray over the issue, with VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel criticising four recalcitrant councils over their position, accusing them of "holding the freight industry and commuters at ransom".

Lovel claims the councils’ decision is jeopardising the profitability of the transport industry because it will save up to $100 million a year as a result of efficiency gains from expanded clearways.

With more than 1500 people moving to Melbourne each week, Lovel says it is essential clearway times are extended to cope with traffic levels as well as flow-on effects of congestion.

"Council’s need to understand that there is more at stake," Lovel says.

"Reducing congestion will result in savings of fuel costs, freight costs, carbon emissions, journey times for thousands of road users in cars, trams, buses and bikes, not to mention the liveability of our city."

The inability for councils and the Brumby Government to reach an agreement stems from the State’s Keeping Melbourne Moving plan, which aims to standardise the 150 clearway times around Melbourne from 6.30am to 10am and from 3pm to 7pm.

Although he says retailers and transport deliveries will be disadvantaged by the change, Lovel argues standardisation is necessary for the wider community, and those affected "will have to find a way to work around it".

The Government announced last week two clearways on West Footscray streets have been extended during morning peaks as part of the $113 million transport plan.

Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas says clearway changes will improve journeys for for up to 300,000 tram and bus passengers and up to 250,000 private vehicle users travelling in Melbourne’s inner suburbs each day.

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