WA seeks greater slice of road funding pie

WA Transport Forum says the feds must cough up more funds for roads and rest areas

By Ruza Zivkusic | May 10, 2011

Western Australia’s peak trucking lobby group says the Federal Government must cough up more funds to improve transport infrastructure and rest areas across the state.

The WA Transport Forum says the $820 million in funding for Western Australia’s road and rail infrastructure due to be announced in today’s Federal Budget is inadequate.

The Budget will allocate funds to fix black spots and upgrade major networks in metropolitan and regional areas, with the Great Eastern Highway to be widened from four to six lanes.

"Yes, it’s great that there’s money being spent on West Australian roads but they need a lot more money considering we’re the state in Australia that’s keeping the rest of Australia going," Transport Forum CEO Ian King says.

"I just think the reality has got to kick in at some stage and if they don’t do something about it then how can they expect the mines to keep growing and to put the income back to the Australian economy?"

King says the road network is inadequate to the point where rain virtually cuts off the top end of the state, causing problems for transport operators.

"We had to go through Alice Springs to deliver, which put extra workload on everyone trying to get food through to the top end of the state," he says, referring to recent flooding in Western Australia.

King has also criticised a lack of investment in rest areas, saying only $2.5 million has been allocated.

"How can they expect people to have a fatigue break if there’s nowhere to pull up?" he asks.

Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) Executive Director Philip Halton says the group will be watching to see if the Federal Government renews or extends its rest area funding program, which was part of a $70 million heavy vehicle-specific scheme to improve safety and productivity.

The scheme has since expired, but there has been no word if it will resume.

Halton says the ALTA will also be paying attention to skills initiatives due to the severe driver shortage currently plaguing the trucking industry. He says many drivers are leaving to work in the mines.

"We are very interested in some of the work around improving skills and the supply of workers in regional areas because it’s been harder and harder to find a driver anywhere in the transport industry but it’s particularly hard to find a rural driver," Halton says.

"Driving is a job which tends to compete with the mining industry. If you’ve got the skills to operate a truck it’s pretty likely that you will have the skills to operate large machinery at a truck site."

A recent report from the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council found there was strong demand in the mining sector for delivery drivers, managers, B-double drivers, schedulers and dangerous goods operators.

The report found many transport operators are struggling to retain drivers, who can earn up to $120,000 with no experience working in the mines.

"It can be difficult for employers who are not associated with mining and construction to attract and retain workers at financially viable rates," the report says.

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