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NSW transport blueprint backs HPVs on Hume Highway

Long-term transport plan wants higher productivity vehicles given access to the Hume Highway under a direct charging scheme

By Brad Gardner | September 4, 2012

Higher productivity vehicles will be given access to the Hume Highway under a direct charging scheme as part of a combination of initiatives aimed at drastically lifting transport efficiency in New South Wales.

The Draft NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan, released today, looks to larger trucks such as B-triples to improve freight productivity, while also championing greater off-peak freight movements to rescue Sydney from the grip of congestion.

Designed to guide transport planning and policy over the next 20 years, the document supports a cross-border access agreement for HPVs between NSW and Victoria to reduce the number of B-double movements by 1 million over 30 years, improving safety and congestion in the process.

The plan says the Hume Highway upgrade, scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, will enable larger trucks to use the route, with suitable rest areas and trailer exchanges to suit HPVs the only works required to make the access arrangement a reality.

“Under the proposed arrangement, HPV operators who benefit directly from these enabling works would contribute towards the cost of these. Initial consideration indicates that charging for HPV use on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne could provide labour and fuel cost savings to industry that would offset potential costs,” the draft document says.

“Where a B-double truck may take 26 trips to move 1,000 tonnes, a HPV may take 20 trips to move the same tonnage, taking six trucks off the road for the same freight task. Therefore, we need to safely increase the productivity of the road task through improved HPVs and road access, as vehicle technology also improves.”

The report says it is essential policy makers factor in community concerns about safety, noise and amenity, but also warns of the cost of not enacting meaningful heavy vehicle productivity reforms.

“This will result in more congestion, higher prices to consumers and reduced global competitiveness for our mining, agricultural and manufacturing industries.”

The plan pledges greater investment in local roads and regional bridges to support an expansion of HPVs, while NSW will also look to streamline the approval process covering restricted access vehicles (RAV).

The report claims the current system is hampered by protracted local council processes that often lead to applications being denied or delayed.

“Generally access outcomes are driven by administrative imperatives and commercial and business imperatives can be ignored, which can lead to reduced investment in NSW industry,” the draft plan states.

The document, which is open for feedback and will be finalised before the year is out, is supportive of getting more trucks to use the road at night in light of findings that only 20 percent of daily freight trips take place over the evening and that the current freight task will almost double to 794 million tonnes by 2031.

The plan says the NSW Government will back changes to work practices to make off-peak freight movements happen, including preparing a business case that takes into account variables such as a reduction in congestion costs, higher labour costs and higher asset utilisation.

“With growth in traffic, particularly within the Sydney metropolitan area, the peak periods are becoming longer and congestion is spreading further across the network,” the report says, adding that the cost of congestion could rise to $8 billion in 2021.

“Coupled with the issue of disconnected supply chain operating hours and night time curfews in some local areas, this congestion constrains the most efficient freight delivery times being achieved, and can be a drag on industry competitiveness.”

The expansive plan, which also touches on measures to improve public transport and rail, indicates strong support for moving away from existing truck charges built around fuel excise and registration fees.

It says the current system disadvantages NSW because only about 60 percent of the cost of building and maintaining roads is recovered through heavy vehicle charges. All governments are currently working on a new charging model, which may include a mass-distance-location scheme.

Road users face new fees under the draft plan’s proposal, with the document flagging the need to link Sydney’s motorway network and investigate distanced-based charging to use for investment in new transport infrastructure.

The report mentions the need to use existing road infrastructure better, such as implementing technology to manage traffic flow and provide real-time information to road users. It says road freight will be given consideration as part of the introduction of a managed motorway system.

“Safe and effective access for heavy vehicles will be incorporated by considering improvements to heavy vehicle provisions at access ramps and the potential introduction of dedicated freight lanes,” the report says.

The paper, which is open for comment until October 26, recommends greater investment in rural highways, upgrades to major roads in growing regional centres and a program of bypasses for regional centres to reduce truck traffic through town centres.

“We’re committing to completing Sydney’s missing motorway links and investing heavily in the bush on key road links like the Pacific and Princes highways,” Roads and Ports Minister Duncan Gay says.

The paper supports expanding Sydney’s most congested corridors and identifies the M5 East motorway expansion and the M4 extension as projects in need of funding.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says the draft plan includes more than 200 short, medium and long term actions and recommendations.

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