Urban development should not cruel Melbourne’s freight efficiency

Throw into the mix the fact that many of our major freight and logistics companies base their operations in Melbourne, and it is easy to understand why (successive) Victorian governments make the claim that Melbourne is Australia’s logistics heartland.

Australian Logistics Council (ALC) was keen, therefore, to play a role on behalf of the logistics industry to provide input to Infrastructure Victoria’s draft 30-year Infrastructure Strategy.

Given the ALC Forum will be held in Melbourne next year (7-9 March at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground), ALC was also keen to highlight a number of issues we would like to see the Victorian Government progress over 2017. Pleasingly, the Strategy acknowledges the importance of reducing the cost of freight handling, storage and transport. It also highlights the need to improve the reliability of supply chains, including the first and last miles.

Infrastructure Victoria has proposed a number of recommendations for the Victorian Government’s consideration to attain these efficiency gains. It recommended providing extra support to assist local government to maintain and upgrade local regional roads to improve access to jobs and services and meet the needs of first- and last-mile freight in regional areas.

It called for a roll out of a program of upgrades to the road network to support high-mass High Productivity Freight Vehicles, particularly for bridges to accommodate heavier axle loads, over five to 15 years. The Strategy advocated for the introduction of more advanced driver assistance applications to provide heavy vehicle drivers with real-time information about the road environment, such as safety warnings, to improve safety and create more efficient traffic flow.

By way of major projects, it highlighted the North East Link, outer Metropolitan Ring Road and Eastern Freeway-CityLink-Western Ring Road as projects requiring planning and funding prioritisation.

One of the key issues ALC focussd in its submission was freight precincts, and Infrastructure Victoria’s proposal to identify existing and future potential precincts and to adequately protect them in response to the growing freight task and to avoid negative impacts on surrounding land uses.

This is important when you consider Victoria’s rising freight task. Freight volumes in Victoria are expected to increase markedly, potentially reaching around 170 billion net tonne-kilometres per annum by 2046, an increase of over 125 per cent on present day levels.

These figures underscore the need for an appropriate planning framework to ensure the freight supply chain can operate at maximum efficiency. ALC has some concerns however that this objective is under threat from a number of planned developments.

For example, the publication of the Government’s Fisherman’s Bend 2050 vision anticipates housing 80,000 people in a 455 hectare area near Victoria’s principal port precinct. This development has the very real potential to impact on the functioning of the most important international freight asset in the State.

ALC’s submission to Infrastructure Victoria stresses the need to ensure any further development in the port area does not restrict any element of the port’s function, including in particular the movement of freight.

We pointed out that prioritising urban uses over freight priorities will mean that CBD freight will be more expensive and more difficult to guarantee delivery times.

Heavy vehicle drivers servicing the Port of Melbourne, and those traversing in and around the CBD know full-well the frustration, costs and delays caused by congestion. 

80,000 people squeezed into Fishermen’s Bend would seriously undermine the efficiency of Melbourne’s freight supply chains, and in so doing, tarnish its reputation as Australia’s freight and logistics capital.

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