Victorian infrastructure strategy warns of choked future

State planning malaise highlights national problem with freight protection

Victorian infrastructure strategy warns of choked future
An image from the report


Infrastructure Victoria’s latest plan for the next 30 years reveals an immense shortfall in preparation for the state’s freight transport and logistics future.

It publication, Victoria’s infrastructure strategy 2021-2051, now presented to state parliament, lays bare the fact that industrial and commercial development on the city’s northern and western fringes have outstripped the transport infrastructure needed to service them efficiently.

The organisation points out that this will entail a heavy cost to the community, both in the added cost of attempting to catch up and the undermining of

Of particular concern is the oft criticised lack of progress on urban rail freight lines.

Also worrying, despite decades of transport and logistics sector agitation is the lack of proactive reservation of freight routes of both modes, though this is a national issue.

"Many industrial and logistics precincts are in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, where they generate demand for transport and logistics services, industrial land and ports," Infrastructure Victoria’s plan document states.

"Location and transport connections are important factors for growing industrial sectors.

"Motorway network accessibility along with labour and land availability are two elements that heavily influence where freight distributors locate.

"The road networks in and near these places will need to move freight reliably and efficiently around the metropolitan area, connecting with regional and interstate producers, and international ports.

"But the city’s outer suburbs have underdeveloped motorways and freeways compared with established areas, limiting their capacity to accommodate extra freight.

"As these areas grow and develop, their land values rise, making further road expansion more expensive. Retrofitting road networks can also be expensive.

"Early protection and purchase of land for future freight terminals and transport corridors can reduce this risk, keeping more freight options affordable.

"A strong and efficient freight rail system can be safer, more reliable and less polluting than road freight. It can help reduce demand on freeways from road freight.

"Replacing trucks with rail can assist in relieving road congestion, pollution and maintenance costs, particularly in metropolitan areas."

Read how the VTA views the newly released strategy, here

The document also reinforced the need to protecting now the space freight will need in future, and at less expense to future generations.

"The price of land has grown faster than the rate of inflation, and industrial land values in different areas of Melbourne increased from 25% to 105% in the five years to 2019," it points out.

"In such circumstances, any delay in acquiring land for a corridor can add materially to the cost of a project.

"Protecting future options by reserving land and corridors will yield substantial cost savings.

"These savings could be further increased if land is acquired early.

"Acquiring entire corridors usually requires governments to make large, upfront outlays, using funds that can be otherwise used for more pressing infrastructure priorities.

"However, substantial funds can be saved through reserving a corridor and then progressively acquiring the properties."

It chimes in with industry concern that there may be backsliding in Sydney on giving facilities and routes the flexibility to grow with the transport and logistics task.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has registered its alarm that the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) is reviewing whether the current ‘Retain and Manage’ policy for industrial lands should be changed to permit rezoning and more ‘flexible use’ of industrial lands.

"This will potentially allow residential and other non-industrial uses on current industrial zoned lands in Greater Sydney," the ALC notes.    

It points out that the national freight task is estimated to be 725 billion tonne-km, and is forecast to increase by 25% to 962 billion tonne-km by 2040, meaning planning decisions made now will determine how that task is met.

New ALC CEO Brad Williams said the protection and preservation of industrial lands in markets such as Sydney and nationally is fundamental to the future operating capabilities of the supply chains.  

"The assured supply of industrial land, close to population centres and separated from residences, is essential to managing the cost of moving freight and the efficiency and productivity of supply chains," Williams said

"Long term thinking is needed to avoid poor planning decisions that will allow encroachment of residential areas on industrial lands placing pressure on critical supply chains."

The idea of such 'flexibility' sits badly with state and national port interests.

NSW Ports CEO Marika Calfas said that consumer import and export volumes through the Port Botany precinct area are expected to increase year on year.

"The rise of e-commerce – accelerated by Covid-19 – together with ongoing population growth in metropolitan Sydney increases the need for industrial land close to population centres to reduce transportation and logistics costs and meet customers' delivery requirements," Calfas said.

Ports Australia CEO Mike Gallacher stressed that the supply chain belongs front-and-centre in state planning.

"Proper state planning and prioritisation ensures net benefit for the state is maximised and sustained over the long-term," Gallacher said.

"The work the NSW government and other governments around the nation have done to protect critical industrial land surrounding major cities must be maintained if our ports and other supply chain links are to continue their service of providing for the nation."

Back in Victoria, the infrastructure plan’s authors warn that state protections are in serious need of updating.

"The Victorian government’s Principal Freight Network aims to protect freight operations, precincts and corridors from urban residential encroachment," they wrote.

"First established over a decade ago, it does not currently reflect freight corridors that have since been developed in regional areas and metropolitan Melbourne."  

This an update is seen a crucial if the expected new container port at Bay West, between Melbourne and Geelong is to succeed.


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