Unprecedented infrastructure spend for Victoria

After three years of bickering between the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, there are encouraging signs that differences are being set aside, and serious money is being allocated to the state’s under-funded transport networks.

Indeed, it was on this page last year that I bemoaned the lack of co-operation between Canberra and Spring Street to the detriment of Victorians, and while differences are yet to be fully resolved, what a difference 12 months can make.

Budget season typically brings commitments of varying sizes across health, education, transport and other community services, but with Victorian and Commonwealth MPs returning to the polls well within a year, the purse has been opened significantly wider for the state, with road and rail infrastructure the biggest winner of all.

The Andrews Labor Government got the ball rolling on 1 May when it allocated $4.3 billion for new and improved roads and bridges around the state. This includes a welcome $1 billion for roads in regional Victoria – including gazetted freight routes – which the VTA has been concertedly lobbying ministers and legislators for.

It also includes $2.2 billion for a Suburban Roads Upgrade in Melbourne’s north and south-east suburbs, extending a successful program of works in last year’s budget that brought improvements to roads to the west of Melbourne.
Public transport received a $1.9 billion funding allocation, which will see passenger rail lines duplicated around the state, Metro rail lines extended, and planning for a fast rail to Geelong, among other measures.

Work on the Metro Tunnel and the Level Crossing Removal program continues at pace, which is an important measure for easing congestion and making roads more efficient for heavy vehicles.

Planning for the North-East Link was also guaranteed, with $110 million allocated to complete detailed planning ahead of calls for tenders next year.
Where it really gets interesting for Victoria is when you have a look at the Commonwealth budget handed down a week later by Treasurer Scott Morrison on 8 May.

For years, Victorian MPs have accused off-siders in Canberra of short-changing us on infrastructure funding, a suggestion that carried some weight when you consider how much less expenditure came our way despite being the second largest, and fastest growing, state in Australia.

That changed dramatically when the Treasurer announced almost $8 billion of road and rail funding, including $5 billion earmarked for a long overdue Melbourne Airport rail link, $1.75 billion for the North-East Link and $1 billion for road and rail projects around the state.

The Commonwealth also reaffirmed its commitment of $3 billion for any state government that would build the cancelled East-West Link, setting up an interesting debate leading up to the November 24 Victorian election, with a state Opposition suggesting it will build both East-West Link and North-East Link.

Freight and logistics operators are the obvious benefactors of this largesse and the VTA is encouraged that both the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have listened to advocacy from us and other industry groups.
The productivity and efficiency benefits that will flow from new and improved roads and bridges, and from increasing passenger rail patronage by taking cars off the roads, will be of enormous assistance to transport companies, especially in the face of fuel costs that are expected to increase exponentially with rising tensions in oil-producing countries in the Middle East.

As polling day approaches for state and federal MPs, government and opposition policies will progressively be released.
In the lead up to this, the VTA is engaging with parties of all persuasion to ensure the needs of transport operators charged with a growing freight task are being met with legislative and regulatory considerations that help them to prosper.

Save the date for AFIAs
Planning is well underway for the VTA Australian Freight Industry Awards, when over 800 industry representatives will gather to celebrate the outstanding achievements of transport operators from around the nation. Save Saturday, 1 September, in your diaries, with further details of what is shaping up as one of the best awards’ nights in our history, aptly themed around The Greatest Show.

The VTA will release further information about the awards and gala presentation over the coming weeks and months at www.vta.com.au

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