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Inland Rail gets big Budget promise in transport

Roads spending allocated as NHVR gains RSRT cash to boost safety outcomes


While finances took the headlines, long-term road and rail infrastructure investment headline federal Budget spending.

And, as promised, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) is set to extend its safety scope with $15.6 million over four years originally set aside for the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT).

After several years of relatively minor spending getting the Inland Rail project planned, the federal government has committed $549 million towards securing its corridor.

The government confirms the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) will built the Melbourne-Brisbane link in partnership with the private sector and market testing for private sector involvement in the project will now start.

Logistics and construction interests backed the move, with Australian Logistics Council (ALC) MD Michael Kilgariff highlighting the “significant funding commitment to acquire the land necessary to construct Inland Rail”.

“We also note tonight’s announcement to retain the Australian Rail Track Corporation in Australian Government ownership,” Kilgariff says.

“This decision represents a significant commitment by Government to the Inland Rail project and we look forward to this ownership arrangement supporting the timely and efficient delivery of the project.”

Both the ALC and Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) trumpeted continuing financial support for the Asset Recycling Fund, an initiative both have long supported.

“It’s very welcome that the Budget has kept funding at record levels but the resounding success of the asset recycling incentive shows that this programme needs to be extended for new state asset sales, beyond 30 June this year,” IPA chief executive Brendan Lyon, who also backs Inland Rail, says.

“The asset recycling initiative is a stand-out success, because it has seen literally tens of billions of dollars unlocked from state budgets and has moved the needle on infrastructure.”

Transport and logistics-related funding includes:

$400 million for Roads to Recovery

$60 million for the Black spot initiative

$40 million for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivityprogram

$60 million for the Bridges Renewalprogram

$350 million for National Network Maintenance

$10 million for research and evaluation

$228.7 million for the National Highway Upgrades project

$52 million to remove 43 bottlenecks on the Sydney road system as part of the Pinch Point project.

$261 million for section 2 of the Perth Freight, as pledged.

Victoria can get a $1.5 billion for new projects available if the Victorian government matches it dollar for dollar, including $350 million for the Western Ring Road, $220 million for the Murray Basin freight rail upgrade, $500 million on the Monash Freeway, $345 million for rural and regional highways, $75 million for urban congestion and $10 million to progress the business case for the Melbourne Metro.

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO Peter Anderson also points to $5 million for the creation of a Port Rail Shuttle at the Port of Melbourne.

“The investment recognises that significant efficiencies can be gained by linking city ports with regional and suburban freight hubs by rail, with container freight operators to benefit from this infrastructure on completion,” Anderson says.

He also hails reductions in the company tax rate by 1 per cent to 27.5 per cent for businesses turning over up to $10 million, along with a change in the small business threshold from $2 million to $10 million in turnover.

“The changes are particularly relevant for the transport industry given small and medium sized operators comprise such a sizable proportion of our industry, and will free up their capital for reinvesting in people, maintenance, equipment and new technology,” Anderson says.

For local councils, indications that Roads to Recovery funding will be increased by $50 million per year from 2019-20, which also confirms the continuation of the program beyond 2018-19, were welcome but not enough.

Mayor and Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Troy Pickard says “more needs to be done to ensure the local road network has the capacity required to address access, productivity and road safety issues, especially in regional areas.

“Additional investment in local roads must be part of the solution to increasing transport productivity on the nation’s transport network.”

New South Wales treasurer Gladys Berejiklian hailed the $2.2 billion the state gets in asset recycling cash saying some of it would go towards its Regional Road Freight Corridor Program, costed at $2 billion when announced in 2014.

There was nothing extra in the Budget for the National Transport Commission or Infrastructure Australia and, as promised, the interstate roads tax remains steady.

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