ALRTA 2014: User pays system up to 10 years away, Retter says

By: Brad Gardner , Photography by: Brad Gardner

NTC boss expects wholesale reform of vehicle charges will take up to a decade to deliver

ALRTA 2014: User pays system up to 10 years away, Retter says
Long wait: NTC CEO Paul Retter says a user pays system for roads could take seven to 10 years to become a reality.


Road-pricing reform advocates may be waiting for up to 10 years to witness the introduction of a user pays system if the words of National Transport Commission (NTC) CEO Paul Retter are any guide.    

In a frank and wide-ranging talk at the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) conference that covered significant issues confronting the industry, Retter declared there was a lot of work ahead of policy makers before wholesale reform of existing charges took place.    

Work has been going on for a number of years now on developing a system to replace the existing scheme made up of registration fees and fuel excise, first through the COAG Road Reform Plan (CRRP) and then the Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment (HVCI) group.  

"If you want Paul Retter’s view, we’re seven to 10 years away from actually getting to some form of user pays and there’s going to be a lot of discussion before then," Retter told the ALRTA conference.    

He says government and industry need to work together on the development of an investment strategy that takes into account issues such as current and future demands on the road network, an agreed benchmark standard for roads, the level of service the industry wants and how roads should be priced.  

"These are all the issues that have yet to be discussed," he says.    

"These are all policy issues that will need to be sorted out before we get anywhere near to coming to a view on what we should be paying from a user pays perspective in terms of future road reform."  

Although the work of the HVCI is limited to heavy vehicles, Retter says he supports a user pays system being applied to all vehicles. 

He says including all road users means policy makers can apply a charge to everyone using the road on an equitable basis.    

"It’s really a vexed political issue but from an old economist point of view, let me tell you that it makes absolute sense," he says.  

During his lengthy speech, Retter also advocated the need for a single heavy vehicle accreditation scheme and promised industry that electronic work diaries would be phased in gradually to make sure the reform runs as smoothly as possible. 

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