ALRTA 2014: SA, feds clash on toll roads

By: Brad Gardner, Photography by: Brad Gardner


South Australia doesn't want toll roads, but Federal Government plans to pursue the issue.

ALRTA 2014: SA, feds clash on toll roads
No tolls: SA transport minister Stephen Mullighan is opposed to toll roads in his state.

 

South Australia and the Federal Government are headed for a showdown on how to fund the ambitious Northern Connector project, with both parties in disagreement about implementing tolls in the state.    

SA transport minister Stephen Mullighan ruled out toll roads during his speech at the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) national conference at the weekend.  

But during his appearance at the event, federal assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs spruiked a toll as a necessary ingredient to making the Northern Connector a reality.  

The project, which relies on federal funding, aims to deliver a new three-lane 15km road extending the Northern Expressway and a new 31km freight rail line.  

The South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure says the road will provide better links connecting Adelaide with Perth, Darwin, Sydney, the Riverland, Barossa Valley and Sunraysia.    

However, Mullighan says slugging motorists or the trucking industry with a toll is not the answer to delivering road projects.  

"The fact of the matter is toll roads don’t stack up in South Australia," he told conference attendees.  

"We don’t have the traffic volumes either in heavy vehicles or in light vehicles to warrant tolls to be able to meet the cost of the sorts of transport infrastructure upgrades that I’ve just been speaking about."  

Mullighan also stated his reluctance to imposing a toll on trucking operators alone, saying it would be "incredibly unfair".  

But Briggs says he intends to sit down with the SA Government and the private sector to put in place an agreement that will deliver the Northern Connector.  

"I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks and months that we will be able to sit down with the South Australian Government and start to discuss that without the ideological argument about tolls because the reality is, your industry knows, that if you can deliver better infrastructure people will happily pay," Briggs claims.

"That’s the experience we have seen in Perth with the Perth Freight Link announcement and I’m sure we can have a reasonable discussion about that here in Adelaide."  

The West Australian Government plans to impose a toll on the trucking industry to help fund the $1.6 billion freight link, which will improve access between the heart of Perth and the Port of Fremantle.  

The Federal Government has committed $925 million to the project, with WA providing $230 million.

The private sector is being asked to contribute the remainder and then recoup the money from a toll on trucks.

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