Bureaucracies must coordinate to attain nation-building infrastructure

We are very fortunate in Australia to have dozens and dozens of highly qualified people working for governments, regulators and other authorities to conceive and plan the road and rail infrastructure we need for the future.

However, it is important that these policy makers prioritise and think about intermodal freight connectivity when making decisions about infrastructure planning and spending and that they coordinate their work.

Underpinning this is the need for modern and efficient road, rail and ports infrastructure that can carry goods quickly and safely. This is where state and commonwealth policy makers need to more closely work together developing a clear, long-term vision.

In this respect, the VTA welcomed legislative moves by the Victorian Government last month to establish Infrastructure Victoria, and we look forward to working with the new body on coordinated infrastructure outcomes that will benefit our economy.

High Productivity Freight Vehicles will play a critical role in our future freight tasks and planners need to factor the practical requirements of these vehicles in their infrastructure planning.

Inevitably there will be regulatory hurdles that will need to be overcome to enable these larger and longer vehicles to use the roads. And then there is the matter of the road infrastructure itself being able to physically accommodate High Productivity Freight Vehicles, which needs to be factored into the design of new roads and bridges.

Overcoming these hurdles will require coordination and discourse between state and national regulatory bodies, which itself will take time and effort.

Throughout this coordination, it will be helpful if the various jurisdictions have a uniform and long-term vision for road and rail infrastructure that is modern, safe, efficient and fully connected.

We need to aspire to world’s best practice when planning our future infrastructure needs. We need a plan that accommodates the big picture, and is not constrained by election cycles and jurisdictional duplication.
While roads remain a core focus for the VTA and our members, rail is increasingly important as a means to increase the efficiency of the freight task.

So we welcome projects like the inland railway linking Melbourne and Brisbane because it helps to spread the freight task between modes of transport, creates transport efficiencies that are good for freight operators and consumers, and alleviates congestion on metropolitan and regional roads.
We also welcome the Victorian Government’s investment in SCT Logistics’ Wodonga rail hub, which will also help to further diversify the road/rail freight task.

Our challenge as freight transport industry advocates is to coordinate these stakeholders to move in step with each other so that we get transport outcomes that will more productively and efficiently move freight.

While these challenges may seem self-serving, mainstream consumers will ultimately reap the benefits of their attainment through safer roads and driving conditions, cheaper goods and faster access to locally produced and imported products.

Regrettably, much of the jurisdictional impediments that exist are political due to governments of different persuasions in power at a Commonwealth and state level.

Some of it, however, is bureaucratic, with competing state and federal roads and transport bodies having varying agendas and priorities, and different ideas on how to achieve their objectives.

There are a number of bodies doing great work to benefit freight operators, such as the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which is helping to encourage better transport efficiencies through the administration of one set of laws for heavy vehicles, and delivering many services under one regulator, with one rulebook.

In the spirit of reducing jurisdictional impediments and red tape, the VTA believes this should be a Commonwealth body, not state-based.

So long as there is consumerism, there will always be a need for getting goods from producers and manufacturers to end users, which will require a combination of air, sea, rail and road freight.

As an industry we must continue to identify and attain the appropriate mix of these transport modes, and work with governments, planners and the community to obtain complementary infrastructure solutions that enhance our economy and quality of life.

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