Victoria spends big on transport infrastructure


Pallas promises nearly $2 billion for freight corridors and maintenance

Victoria spends big on transport infrastructure
Tim Pallas says he is seeking to free up key freight routes

 

Raising productivity and treating congestion are two themes to emerge from this year’s Victorian Budget.

And after years of complaints, particularly in rural areas facing heavy truck use, road maintenance spending has been identified for the far western Green Triangle region in the present quarter and others in coming years.

"This budget gets on with the job of strengthening our road system with an investment of almost $2 billion that will help reduce congestion and keep Victorians safe behind the wheel," treasurer Tim Pallas tells parliament.

Upgrades are promised too for the Great Ocean Road, the Henty Highway and the South Gippsland Highway, as part of a $531 million commitment for regional roads.

"This includes an extensive program of resealing, resurfacing and rehabilitation works across the State, work that will free up key freight routes, reduce the risk of crashes, relieve bottle-necks and improve traffic flow," Pallas says.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) highlighted several initiatives it believes will "help freight operators under pressure from expanding road user charges and shrinking margins to realise productivity gains, and experience greater success".

Chief among these, it says, are:

  • $556 million for improvements to Victoria’s regional road network, including $41 million to upgrade 17 bridges on freight routes to handle High-Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV’s) starting next financial year
  • $1.45 billion Regional Rail Revival package to upgrade rail networks in Gippsland, Central Victoria, the Surf Coast and the state’s south west
  • $700 million over four years to upgrade the M80 Ring Road
  • $300 million to connect the Mornington Peninsula Freeway with the Dingley Bypass via a new Mordialloc Bypass
  • $100 million to fund planning and pre-construction for completion of the M80 Ring Road via the North East Link
  • $58 million for West Gate Bridge maintenance.

"All up, the Budget contains close to $2 billion for new construction and upgrades to Victoria’s road network, which is vital for the freight industry to move goods and keep the economy ticking over," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"Payroll tax relief for SME’s in regional Victoria will encourage significant investments in those businesses, and generate jobs and growth.

"The $100 million investment in pre-construction and planning for the North East Link is welcome news, and comes after 18 months of concerted lobbying by the VTA and business and road user groups for a commitment to the connection with serious funding.

"The Regional Rail Revival package outlined in the Budget is a vital part of a suite of initiatives either planned or under construction to reduce congestion on roads throughout the state, by offering alternatives to passenger vehicle use and freeing up the road network for freight movements.

"However, with this project contingent on federal funding, the VTA encourages the Victorian and Commonwealth governments to set aside their political differences and reach an urgent agreement on Victorian infrastructure funding, which continues to significantly lag behind other states.

"Road congestion and inadequate road and rail infrastructure remain the number one impediment to better productivity among freight operators."

Anderson adds that the Budget contains "much for the industry to be encouraged about, and we thank the Government for listening to our concerns".

Budget papers show other non-urban road spending will include:

  • $65.8 million to improve and conduct essential maintenance on roads in south western Victoria, including the Great Ocean Road
  • $50 million for the South Gippsland Highway
  • $49.2 million for upgrades to 23 major roads all across the state – including the Calder, Bass, Sunraysia and Princes Highways
  • $40.8 million to upgrade 17 bridges throughout the State under the Stronger Bridges, Stronger Economy program
  • $37.2 million to upgrade narrow sealed arterial roads throughout south western Victoria
  • $25.8 million to fund business cases for 43 regional and rural road upgrades
  • $10 million for Stage 1 of the Shepparton Bypass
  • $10 million for road construction projects around Portland in the Green Triangle in the state’s west – including Henty Highway, Portland Ring Road, and the Portland‑Nelson Road.

 

Funding for the Western Suburbs Roads Package (WSRP) of public private partnership (PPP) projects, centred on one of the nation’s largest logistics areas, is being held pending the completion of the procurement process currently underway.

Funding is to be released progressively as planning is completed, with final cashflows "subject to the commercial outcomes of the procurement process".

The WSRP combines eight high-priority road upgrades with maintenance on more than 700 lane kilometres of road, stretching from Werribee to Footscray.  

According to the Budget papers, the package will be procured as an "availability PPP, which will ensure motorists benefit from new high quality roads, while the existing network is maintained to a high standard for years to come". They will involve a combination of duplication and widening works to western arterial roads.

"The project will transform the outer-western road network by boosting capacity and improving road pavement conditions with intersection upgrades, almost 30 kilometres of lane duplication, and road maintenance," the state government says.

"These priority road upgrades and maintenance works will cut travel times, improve road safety and better connect communities in key growth corridors.

"The package will be delivered within five years, and the maintenance and rehabilitation contract will continue for a further 20 years. Construction is expected to begin in 2018."

Pallas again took the federal government to task over a infrastructure funding shortfall in from 2015-16 to 2019-20 compared with other large states.

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