Calls for congestion charging; transport lobby unconvinced

Victorian transport lobby groups slam a report that dismisses the proposed east-west freeway and suggests congestion pricing is needed

By Ruza Zivkusic | July 1, 2011

Victoria’s transport experts have slammed a report which dismisses the proposed east-west freeway and suggests congestion pricing on Melbourne roads is needed.

The ACIL Tasman’s Victoria’s Productivity, Competitiveness and Participation report also believes Victoria needs to invest in smaller road projects to clear traffic congestion.

Victorian Transport Association CEO Phil Lovel says report fails to address the needs of Victoria’s infrastructure.

"A congestion charge is such a negative solution, there are many ways we can change the efficiency of the freight industry of urban travel without doing that," Lovel says.

"That just adds cost to business and to the community; we can make much better use of our facilities by working smarter, using technology, changing the way we do business and working with our customers to change their needs.

"The old philosophy of ‘just in time’ needs to be recognised as a whole because so many people are now sending their freight by just in time and it’s not necessary. There are lots of other solutions that the VTA says that have never been considered."

RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus says he is "perplexed" by the report’s conclusion.

"We reject congestion pricing on Melbourne’s roads, we’re saying that motorists are already overtaxed and what needs to happen is the total restructuring of the taxes of motoring," Negus says.

"The road project under the Maribyrnong is needed – this is the east-west link from the Eastern Freeway across the Western Ring Road and is absolutely critical for Melbourne.

The recently-released report has also found Melbourne to be the best performer of the Australian ports and the only Australian port above the overseas median.

Comparison of container handling rates showed that Adelaide container port outperformed Melbourne, with the Port of Brisbane outperforming Melbourne on vessel turnaround times.

"Many of the issues faced by Victoria’s ports are national in nature," the report says.

"In particular, all ports face a growing freight task in the face of capacity constraints, with landside bottlenecks made worse by urban encroachment.

"For the Port of Melbourne, the most important issues relate to land use planning within the port and landside connectivity. In particular, landside capacity and connectivity needs to be increased, through an improved network of road, rail and intermodal links."

It believes a longer-term reform, such as congestion charging, would be relevant to public transport.

"Earlier ACIL Tasman work on congestion charging was conducted under some secrecy but since the Henry tax review the issue is more widely discussed. Experience in London, Singapore and Stockholm is useful to draw on and other cities are considering it," the report says.

"The economic case for congestion charging is strong and the political challenge becomes easier is some or all of the revenue is channelled into road and public transport improvements."

Melbourne’s transport task is expected to double by 2020, with an average travel per capita above 14,000km.

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