Road maintenance losing out despite strong return from charges

Federal Government road maintenance expenditure is $300 million despite Canberra collecting about $1.4 billion in fuel excise

By Ruza Zivkusic | September 14, 2011

Road maintenance has been dubbed the "poor cousin" of infrastructure funding, with the Federal Government investing little of the money it takes in from road user charges in fixing roads.

The man leading the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Road Reform Plan says it is estimated that Canberra takes in more than $1.4 billion from the fuel excise annually but only spends $300 million on road maintenance each year.

Neil Aplin told attendees at this year’s Freight Week event he believes road providers have statutory rights to road charge receipts and that issues around accountability and funding capacity needed to change to drive greater investment in maintenance projects.

"One can be critical of asset protection when it affects roll-out of higher productivity vehicle standards [but] it is understandable in a world where funds are scarce, levels of future funding are uncertain and maintenance funding is the poor cousin," he says.

The COAG Road Reform Plan, dubbed CRRP, earlier this year recommended the introduction of mass-distance-location charging for heavy vehicles to replace the existing system built on registration fees and fuel excise.

Under the proposal, GPS trackers and on-board mass monitors will be fitted to trucks to track their weight, distance travelled and the roads they use.

The CRRP recommends an independent fund collect the revenue and distribute it to road managers.

Funding levels will be linked directly to the roads a truck uses, meaning a local government with a high number of trucks on its roads will receive more money than one with small number.

The CRRP says its proposal will deliver funding certainty to governments, which will lead to greater investment in roads.

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