Freight transport top priority in 2010: Rudd

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd vows to give freight transport top billing in 2010, as talk turns to dedicated freight corridors

By Brad Gardner | January 21, 2010

Improving freight transport productivity will be given top priority in 2010, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd highlighted the need for dedicated truck and rail corridors.

In a speech in Adelaide yesterday, Rudd outlined a need to invest in improving the nation’s freight task to boost productivity and to rectify an infrastructure deficit caused by a lack of investment.

Citing a projected boom in the freight task in the coming years, Rudd says this decade must be a "building decade" to ensure the freight industry has the ability to productively deliver goods.

"That’s why in 2010, the transport priority for the Council of Australian Governments will be freight transport," Rudd says.

Infrastructure Australia is currently working on a list of proposals to improve the freight task, which includes better coordination of the supply chain and separating passenger and freight transport.

"…the case for dedicated roads and rail freight infrastructure has become stronger to minimise conflict with passenger transport and economic losses," Rudd says.

"I look forward to considering this work in detail later in the year."

The speech gained the backing of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), which has long called for better roads to deliver productivity gains and improve safety.

"The trucking industry welcomes the prime minister’s announcement that freight transport will be COAG’s 2010 priority," ATA Chief Executive Stuart St Clair says.

"Building dedicated freight infrastructure such as freight only lanes in key areas would reduce the cost of congestion and separate cars and trucks, with clear safety benefits."

St Clair says Rudd’s announcement highlights the close working relationship the ATA has with his government, but adds that more needs to be done.

He says COAG needs to press ahead with the move to national reforms and the industry should be allowed to use larger vehicles such as B-triples and super B-doubles to improve productivity, cut emissions and deliver safety gains.

During his speech, Rudd told attendees that fixing the infrastructure shortfall was not just about federal investment.

"It’s also about policy coordination and reform to provide the right incentives for private sector investment as well," he says.

Rudd wants productivity levels to rise from 1.4 percent to 2 percent, saying it is necessary to cope with an ageing workforce and population growth that is expected to reach 36 million by 2050.

During his speech, Rudd told attendees investment in transport, storage and communications declined between the 1980s and 1990s and fell again in the first decade of this century.

"Addressing the infrastructure gap will involve large scale investment and take a long period of time," he says.

"I describe the new decade that we have just begun as Australia’s building decade, putting in place the building blocks of long-term productivity growth."

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