Pallas says trucking is not paying its way on infrastructure
Fox takes up cudgels again on toll hikes as Treasurer takes to airwaves with defence of burden on trucking
Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas has rejected the trucking industry’s position that it overcompensates for the use and building of road infrastructure.
The assertion comes as the nation’s highest-profile industry figure and Pallas have taken to mainstream media over the state government’s truck-centric tolling strategy.
In an ongoing argument over toll increases of up to 125 per cent on Melbourne’s Transurban-run CityLink route, Linfox founder Lindsay Fox argues "residential streets should remain residential" and not be subject to truck traffic, but this must be supported by upgrades to Victorian infrastructure.
"If the roads are working properly and the infrastructure is right, then you shouldn’t have trucks in residential areas," Fox says.
"CityLink wants us to pay when the road isn’t complete and our productivity is down by 20 per cent. That’s putting the cart before the horse.
"We’re at least 20 per cent slower today on CityLink.
"Why should we pay for a road that’s not going to be complete for 12 months?
"This impacts all businesses. The escalation of pricing without productivity can’t be justified."
The CityLink increase is attributed to the cost of the $1.28 billion CityLink/Tulla widening project.
The widening project is due for completion on an undisclosed date in 2018.
Linfox data comparing travel times between February and December 2016 on the Tullamarine Freeway and shared with Transurban shows traffic has slowed by as much as 20 per cent, the company says.
It argues reduced sign-posted speeds to 80km/h from100km/h, traffic interruptions and diversions have increased Linfox running costs.
Fox also, for the second time in two months, took to the Herald-Sun to flagged his opposition to the charges’ implementation.
He was quoted as saying he would explore launching a series of legal challenges against what he views as a form of "extortion".
Fox insists the charges with disrupt the Melbourne transport and logistics system, likening roads to the economy’s vascular system, with proposed charges and street bans acting to effectively block arteries.
"We will continue to review the use of alternative arterial roads to ensure we can deliver value and reliability for our customers," the company reiterates.
The new attack brought state treasurer Tim Pallas, a former roads minister, on to Neil Mitchell’s 3AW talkback show.
There, he claimed motorists subsidised infrastructure for trucks, given they are four times the size and 37 times heavier than cars and contribute more to on-road breakdowns, and that the Victorian industry was being brought into line with costs in other states.
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) rejects Pallas’ position.
"The independent government body that makes recommendations on road pricing, the National Transport Commission, has concluded that truck and bus operators will be overcharged by $515 million nationally in 2016-17 and 2017-18," ATA chair Noelene Watson says.
"Minister Pallas’s comments show why we need an independent pricing regulator that can impose pricing decisions, rather than one that just makes recommendations to governments."
Against Fox’s point about the widening not being complete, Pallas points to a 9km CityLink stretch that has been opened and says the industry will save 30 minutes on a trip.
Pallas says the outcome of new infrastructure will help transport company costs.
Though the West Gate Tunnel toll was still being negotiated, he pointed to the government’s business case figure of $13 a trip but says there will be ‘tripcaps’ on multiple charges at a rate that was also still to be negotiated.
Pallas professed himself surprised at the negative reaction from the Victorian Trucking Association, given" the engagement up to now has been quite positive".
He says if trucking companies were happy to open their books to the government and this showed a significant burden, the government would take up the issue with Transurban.