NSW councils underline freight effect of underinvestment


Roads summit highlights disconnect between efficiency demands and lack of resources at local level to realise them

NSW councils underline freight effect of underinvestment
Warren Sharpe: shortfall will mean roads and bridges declining further

 

While there was much spending for new transport infrastructure in the Federal Budget, it is lack of cash for local transport infrastructure that has councils concerned in New South Wales.

The NSW Local Roads Congress this week saw delegates highlight the impact on freight efficiency of continued political focus on providing resources to big ticket items compared with the underspend elsewhere.

"These same roads are also critical to the efficient movement of freight including delivering loads via high productivity trucks to/from point of source over the ‘first mile’," their communiqué states.

"The Congress notes government advice that the freight task is predicted to double in the next 20 years and acknowledges many local and regional roads were not designed to cater for higher productivity vehicles.

"In addition, the State Government must review the increased use of the rail network the increased freight task."

While backing the Federal Government’s continuing $349.8 million a year Roads to Recovery initiative and the $60 million a year bridge assistance fund to June 2020, thy say the access issue demands more to tackle timber bridges.

"The flatlining of Federal Assistance Grants announced in the recent Budget means this funding is being significantly eroded ($95.8 million, $200.4 million, $307.8 million and $321.1 million from 2014/15 to 2018/19 respectively)," the communiqué continues.

"This represents a major loss of much needed funding.

"The NSW Local Road Construction Cost Forecast 2010‐2020 (February, 2011) highlights the increasing cost of construction as being over 4.1 per cent per annum over this decade. This far exceeds the rate pegging limit for NSW of 2014/15 of 2.3 per cent, resulting in a decline in available funding in real terms. "

In a keynote address to the congress, Transport and Roads Parliamentary Secretary Ray Williams assured delegates of the State’s road commitment.

"If we untie the road network, we release economic development across the whole state whether it be in metropolitan or regional areas," Williams stated.

"The road network is a major asset to NSW and requires considerable infrastructure investment to renew and maintain."

But NSW Roads & Transport Directorate Chairman Warren Sharpe drove the economic point home while highlighting the false economy of skimping.

"Local and regional roads are under-funded in NSW by more than $600 million per annum, without accounting for works to meet demand from growth or upgrades to meet the increasing pressures to support higher productivity trucks. This shortfall is inclusive of existing Federal Assistance Grants and Roads to Recovery programs" Sharpe says.

"In NSW, this means accepting further decline in the condition of road and bridge infrastructure, with worsening road safety outcomes, negative impacts on business and the NSW and regional economies, increasing maintenance costs and litigation, and reduced ability to meet the extra demands of growth in population and provide for higher productivity vehicles."

Sharpe says the critical points in the communiqué recommendations include:

  • a recognition of the importance of NSW Local Roads to the economic development of NSW communities
  • seeking  changes to allow the redistribution of Federal Assistance Grants  to assist the areas of highest need in regional NSW and to modify rating arrangements on high density developments to promote sustainable rate income levels for urban councils.

The NSW Local Roads Congress is hosted by the NSW Roads and Transport Directorate, an initiative of Local Government NSW and The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (NSW Division).

Communiqué recommendations can be found here.

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