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NSW eyes revamp of road charges for trucks and motorways

A new charging regime for Sydney's motorways and heavy vehicles travelling through New South Wales is on the cards

By Brad Gardner | September 5, 2012

A new charging regime for Sydney’s motorways and heavy vehicles travelling through New South Wales is on the cards as a first step towards a complete overhaul of existing vehicle charges.

The Draft Long Term Transport Master Plan, released yesterday, proposes drastic changes to the current NSW vehicle charging framework to ensure government receives adequate funding to maintain the state’s existing network and to build new roads.

The plan, which charts a 20-year blueprint for transport infrastructure, says existing levels of funding will eventually be insufficient to cover road costs and that a series of short, medium and long-term options are necessary to recoup adequate revenue from motorists.

The document proposes a cents-per-kilometre charge covering all of Sydney’s motorway network. Revenue from the scheme will be funnelled into completing motorway upgrades and increasing investment in public transport.

While not setting a date for the implementation of new scheme, the plan says a trial of a preferred tolling option should begin in the next five years, alongside distance-based charging for heavy vehicles on key freight routes.

The plan recommends distance charging for all heavy vehicles on all freight routes as a medium-term step in five to 10 years, followed by the introduction of a charge for all motorists that bills them based on vehicle mass, time-of-day travel, distance and location in 10 to 20 years.

“Under our current system, there are many costs associated with road use that are not borne by the individual road user,” the report says.

“These costs include the provision of road maintenance, the cost of pollution from our vehicles, the cost of accidents and the additional time cost to all road users arising from increases in congestion.”

The draft plan, which will be finalised later this year, says the objective of the new charging system is to ensure those who travel less pay less, while those who rely heavily on their vehicles will pay more.

It says direct charging for higher productivity vehicles on the Hume Highway will act as a precursor to the new structure, which will demand contract renegotiations with motorway owners and community consultation.

The plan says the NSW Government spent about $4.7 billion upgrading and maintaining the state’s road network in 2010-11.

“NSW also carries by far the largest proportion of interstate truck traffic and, as a result, bears the higher crash and road maintenance costs,” it says.

Business Council of Australia President Tony Shepherd says he hopes the NSW Government will consider a user-pays approach as a new funding source.

“Sydney’s transport system is obviously in urgent need of an overhaul. Congestion is causing mounting costs and inconvenience for business and the community, and is holding up the transport of our goods for export which is a major handbrake on our productivity,” Shepherd says.

Australian Logistics Council Managing Director Michael Kilgariff says the Government’s challenge will be turning rhetoric into action by setting timetables for delivery.

Kilgariff says he is pleased the report places an emphasis on identifying and protecting future strategic freight routes.

“The missing ingredient which must be addressed, however, is the identification of a suitable funding mechanism to actually secure the land necessary to maintain corridors or to locate or buffer port and intermodal facilities,” he says.

Kilgariff also praised the Government for signalling its support for higher productivity vehicles and says he hopes it will pave the way for improved access for larger vehicles to production facilities across the state.

“The Government’s commitment to develop a package of measures to grow off-peak freight movements is welcomed and ALC looks forward to consulting with the Government on this initiative,” Kilgariff says.

“The imposition of restrictions limiting when product can be delivered to stores during off-peak times makes no economic sense and adds to congestion on both road and rail during peak periods.”

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