Mixed reaction to West Gate Tunnel announcement


VTA applauds tunnel construction news as CTAA raises questions about productivity improvement moves

Mixed reaction to West Gate Tunnel announcement
The project is expected to improve freight access to the Port of Melbourne.

 

Work on the West Gate Tunnel (WGT) project is expected to begin early next year, the Victorian government has announced.

Welcoming the news, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) congratulates the state government and Transurban for the development of the project.

And while the Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) has welcomed some of the moves such as a multi-road toll cap for trucks using CityLink and the WGT, it says the construction announcement brings additional questions for the container transport sector regarding productivity improvements to the broader container freight network.

The government announcement came a day after a new research raised concerns about the proposed benefits of the $5.5 billion project, going as far as recommending rolling it back.

Meanwhile, reacting to the government announcement, VTA CEO Peter Anderson says it is encouraging to see that construction on the "long overdue piece of infrastructure" will commence soon, and as a result improve access to the Port of Melbourne via an alternative river crossing.

"The VTA has been working closely with the Victorian Government, West Gate Tunnel operator Transurban and other stakeholders throughout the development of this vital infrastructure project, and we are pleased that with contracts exchanged work can commence early in the new year," Anderson says.

"We are especially pleased that the government and Transurban have listened and responded to concerns of the VTA and broader transport industry about permanent truck bans on alternative local roads around the port, by providing financial incentives for operators to use the improved West Gate Freeway and the new tunnel.

"These include multi-trip discounts for operators that use the West Gate Freeway more than four times throughout the day, and night time discounts that will see tolls reduced at night by as much as 33 per cent for heavy vehicles."

Under the proposed tolling regime, the following multi-trip daily discounts will apply:

  • 1-4 trips per day charged at normal trip rate                                        
  • additional 5-8 trips per day charged at 50 per cent off the normal trip rate
  • ninth and over trips per day free of charge

"For frequent users of the West Gate Freeway, the new tolling regime means they will only pay full tolls on the first four trips each day, with tolls for the following four trips halved, and tolls waived completely on the ninth and higher trips," Anderson says.

Tolls for heavy commercial vehicles have been set at $14.60 during the day and $9.75 at night.

For high productivity freight vehicles day time tolls have been set at $21.90 and $14.60 at night.

There will be a multi-road toll cap for trucks using CityLink and the West Gate Tunnel, with single trip tolls capped at $27.15 for heavy commercial vehicles and $40.75 for high productivity freight vehicles.

"Following our ongoing discussions, it is positive that Transurban and the Government have heeded the call for multi-trip and night time discounts as part of the tolling equation for the WGT," CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

"With container transporters targeting to make 6-7 round trips from yard to the port per shift, the daily cost will be approximately $87 per HCV for day shift only operations, $58 per HCV for night shift only and somewhere between these amounts over the 24 hour shift dependent on truck start times (note: the 24 hour tolling period will commence from midnight).

"This compares very favorably to the current approximate $55 for every trip imposed on container trucks undertaking a round trip on the Monash."

However, Chambers is calling for all associated tolling charges linked to the project to accompany "correspondingly demonstrable productivity gains".

"Our conversations with Transurban, the government and indeed the West Gate Tunnel Inquiry and Advisory Committee, have consistently been focused on Victoria’s international competitiveness, and in particular on not adding costs to the supply chain," he says.

"This requires a whole of network approach.

"We now have the WGT piece of the puzzle, which we know will add extra costs, but where is the government’s announcement on the broader container freight network to improve productivity overall?"

As an example Chambers points out: "The WGT will provide for trucks with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of up to 109 tonnes to travel on it. 

"For container transport, this design feature will allow up to 4 heavy containers to be transported to and from the port using safe and efficient Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs).

"This will be a really positive design feature and outcome. 

"However, this presents no benefit to the container transport sector unless similar upgrades are made to the container freight routes leading to and from the WGT. 

"We look forward to the Government announcing when they intend to bring the whole of the major container freight network up to the equivalent 109 tonne standard." 

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