MTF wants more for rail in Vic Budget

Interest group wants Victorian Government to spend more on rail, while there are calls for rail charges to be capped

By Ruza Zivkusic | March 17, 2011

The Metropolitan Transport Forum (MTF) wants greater investment in rail, while a top logistics body is calling for rail charges to be capped to improve the sector’s competitiveness.

In its submission to the Victorian 2010-11 Budget, the MTF asked the Victorian Government to undertake a proper cost benefit analysis of transport modes to examine key myths held about transport and freight costs.

MTF Chair Jackie Fristacky says the organisation’s aim is to convince politicians it makes sense to invest in rail transport.

"Policy advisers that I’ve met in the past have said they can’t afford to invest in rail and it’s a burden to the economy and budget when in fact the reverse is the case," she says.

"It’s a burden on the economy not to invest in our infrastructure, public transport and freight infrastructure."

Victorian Freight and Logistics Council (VFLC) CEO Rose Elphick spoke at one of the forums held by MTF on transport and infrastructure issues.

She says the VFLC has been at the future of rail freight over the last 18 months. Elphick says pricing is a significant problem in Victoria because rail pays about four times the cost of access than the trucking industry pays to move freight.

"This relates to an imbalance of marginal pricing arrangements for freight access to rail, with operators having to pay capital costs, interest costs, financial depreciation costs and margins on capital," she says.

"We believe that rail access charges should be capped at double that of B-double licence and registration fees."

Elphick says the move will bring Victoria into line with the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) access fees.

"But at present paying four times road access charges, no wonder Victorian freight volumes are eroding on rail while volumes on freight on road have steadily increased relative to rail."

Established 18 years ago, the MTF has 21 metropolitan local governments as members and a range of associate members from across the transport sector. The membership includes government transport agencies, transport providers and consultants and organisations with an interest in transport.

The MTF’s wish list was officially launched by Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder.

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