COAG reforms force NTC to reprioritise


The focus on national regulations and road pricing put the brakes on NTC reforms by forcing the group to reprioritise

COAG reforms force NTC to reprioritise
COAG reforms force NTC to reprioritise
By Brad Gardner | November 5, 2010

The focus on national truck regulations and a new road charging scheme for heavy vehicles has forced the National Transport Commission to sideline existing projects.

In its annual report released today, the NTC says it had to divert resources from projects already underway to support work on ending cross-border inconsistencies and replacing the current heavy vehicle registration system.

Both reforms are being pursued by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), and the report says the NTC's decision to reprioritise resources meant it only completed 67 percent of projects on time.

"Delays resulted from targeted tactical deferrals as some staff resources were redeployed onto the COAG projects," the report says.

"Planned research on PBS [performance based standards] bridge assessment tools and infrastructure standards was not completed by the end of the financial year."

While the NTC completed the majority of its projects in less than three months, the report shows almost 30 percent of projects took three to six months to finish. Less than 10 percent took more than six months.

The NTC managed to come under budget overall, with the report saying 92 percent of allocated funding was spent.

Total expenses reached $7.72 million, down from $7.85 million the previous financial year. Most of the expenses from the 2010 financial year were due to employee benefits ($4.76 million).

The NTC saved close to $500,000 in its work on heavy vehicle pricing.

However, it went well over budget on national regulations to spend more than $1 million and tripled the amount allocated to it for work on the rail safety regulator.

Work on improving PBS was considerably under budget, with the NTC spending less than $1 million despite having close to $2 million to invest in the project.

NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says the policy-making body played a proactive role in the COAG reform process.

"While the reforms are challenging, there are significant safety, environmental and productivity outcomes for industry and the wider community if they are achieved," he says.

The NTC is currently looking at possible road pricing options, including fuel-based and mass-distance and location charging.

The report also lists future projects on the NTC’s agenda, including efforts to get higher productivity vehicles on the road.

"The NTC is currently developing a national policy for B-triples based on using existing B-double equipment with an additional trailer," it says.

"This means more flexibility for operators as combinations can be broken down as a B-double or hooked up as a B-triple vehicle for operation on networks currently approved for type 1 road trains."

The report says B-triples are more stable than road train and improve productivity while reducing road wear.

NTC Chairman Greg Martin used the report to chart a long-term view of what the NTC wants for the Australian transport industry.

"In 50 years, the NTC would like to see an Australia that has a safe-systems approach to transport and aspires to zero transport deaths," he says.

"I am pleased to report that Australia is well on the way to creating the building blocks for a seamless national economy."

The report also points to challenges ahead for the transport industry, saying greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise despite a government commitment to reduce the country’s carbon output.

"Further freight productivity reform is essential to support economic growth and maintain downward pressure on the cost of goods and services," it adds.


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