NRFA slams Infrastructure Australia plan over costs

Pattel says the current formula to calculate road user charge is flawed and needs to be reviewed

NRFA slams Infrastructure Australia plan over costs
NHRA policy advisor Mick Pattel calls for a more inclusive business community engagement in the decision making process. Picture: Alf Wilson


The National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) says it does not, in most parts, concur with the recently released Australian Infrastructure Plan, which calls for road user charging as a funding reform to support road, rail and port spending.

While the initial reaction to the 15-year plan was favourable, with both political and industry players voicing their support while calling for more work to be carried out on the details, the NRFA says the plan will ultimately drive funding from road infrastructure projects to support the rail freight sector.

NRFA policy advisor Mick Pattel tells ATN that the main aim of the IA plan is to "extract maximum revenue from the road transport industry" and inject it into rail infrastructure projects "under the guise of building freight infrastructure for the future".

"The push to raise more revenue from a cash-strapped road transport industry for roads without spending accountability leaves the gate open for bureaucrats and contractors to continue to milk the system," Pattel says.

He agrees with the IA suggestion that a public inquiry into road funding should be conducted, but suggests it should look at the "blatant waste of funds and the inflated costs associated with every road project" so that the freight transport industry gets a "better value for money".

Both the NRFA and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) have already highlighted that the current methodology used to calculate road user charge is flawed and biased, which has resulted in the industry being excessively over charged for years, Pattel says.

Pattelalso agrees with the IA recommendation that the change in the road use charge is needed "to stop the cross subsidisation that exists in the current charging system".

"The best and fairest method of charging should be based on a fuel charge, the proposed mass, distance and location scheme, will require telematics which will place unnecessary cost and compliance on the heavy vehicle industry, a fuel charge across the entire motoring public will ensure that road wear is assigned to the road user population based on fuel consumption, no tracking, no reporting, no manipulation of the system and less red tape and bureaucratic administration and enforcement.

"Revenue gathered at the bowser will be administered by the federal government and distributed to the states in a similar way to the GST, the federal government would quarantine a percentage for national road projects and natural disasters that impact on road infrastructure," Pattel suggests.

Pattel also questions IA chairman Mark Birrell’s statement that the government must implement a heavy vehicle road charging structure five years ahead of other road users, adding that road users are not getting a "free ride" currently.

The NRFA says Australian businesses are tired of bureaucratic programs that distract them by creating more red tape and result in "nothing but unnecessary compliance and unworkable outcomes".

Issues such as compliance, environmental constraints and other "externally injected costs" are continuously increasing – all of which detract from the original intent of the funding, Pattel says.

He calls for a more inclusive business community engagement in the actual decision making process instead of the "token gesture" that is currently followed in order to achieve a more practical outlook to infrastructure projects.

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