SAFC seeks political attention on freight issues


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In lead-up to the state election, peak body highlights road upkeep as a crucial concern

The South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) has welcomed the Liberal Opposition’s commitment to improve safety through increased Black Spot Program funding but has called on both major parties to focus more on transport issues during the election campaign.

SAFC says major political parties need to urgently address road maintenance shortfalls, with the current average time taken to re-seal major South Australian roads now double the design life of the pavement.

Re-sealing of major roads is one of five major priorities listed by SAFC ahead of the March State Election.

SAFC CEO Neil Murphy says that currently only around 3 per cent of the State’s 97,000km road network is sealed or rehabilitated annually.  This means it would take on average 34 years to reseal the whole network – double the average design life of 15-20 years.

"A major concern for the industry is the maintenance of assets and we have been urging State and Federal governments to accelerate maintenance regimes for several years as lack of significant spending has seen networks deteriorate rapidly, among other things raising issues about safety of all road users," Murphy says.

"In addition to serious safety concerns, poorly maintained roads also can lead to increased vehicle operating costs and travel times, increased noise and environmental emissions, and in the longer term, increased road maintenance expenditure when deterioration requires major works.

"Roads such as the Strzelecki Track leading to the Moomba Oil and Gas Fields, and the Copper Coast Highway on Yorke Peninsula are just a couple of examples of roads that are increasing the industry’s operating costs."

Murphy says South Australia needed a comprehensive and integrated Transport Planning Regime to guide investment decisions and plan for future freight and logistics systems and operations.

The SAFC wants both major political parties need to take a bipartisan approach to several urgent priorities outlined by the industry and to commit to the development of a funding plan within 12 months of the formation of Government.

"Industry and community need more certainty about how the transport network and system will develop in the future," he said.

"For its part, the Government has produced the Draft Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan (ITLUP) and the Opposition has stated that it will develop a Transport Plan when it gets into office.

"This is a welcome development as network and infrastructure investment is critical to supporting the State’s mining sector, which will attract more attention following the imminent withdrawal of GMH."

Murphy says announcements by GMH that it will pull out of South Australia and then Toyota closing its Victorian operations, had the potential to severely hamper the State’s economy as a variety of businesses – automotive and non-automotive alike – could be faced with bleak future work opportunities.

"Like many industry sectors, the transport and logistics sector will be hit hard by this announcement as the economy in general struggles to cope with the loss of activity,’’ he said.

"It is widely acknowledged that the mining sector offers an opportunity to diversify the economy and create employment opportunities. However, new and existing mines, big and small, will require significant infrastructure investment – in roads, rail and ports in particular, as well as in power and water networks – if they are going to be positioned to export minerals and import consumable items.

"The industry is currently faced with a chicken and egg situation – many mines cannot access development finance without a viable path to market, and the necessary infrastructure required to pave that path to market cannot be economically justified without miners willing to guarantee throughput. This is a classic case of market failure that requires a kick-start from government to get things moving." 

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