Victoria on brink of coordinated transport plan

While this discourse will focus on individual infrastructure projects, it is important we not lose sight of the need for a coordinated transport plan that covers intermodal road, rail and sea transport, with consideration given to requirements of user groups from the community and industry.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has long advocated for coordinated planning when it comes to building new infrastructure and maintaining existing networks at a local, state and national level. We are seeing strong signs of this here in Victoria in the form of consistent project delivery and the sensible amalgamation of authorities that have coordination oversight.

The establishment of Transport for Victoria (TfV) last year was an important first step towards attainment of a coordinated transport plan for the state.

As new infrastructure projects commence, and the State Government plans its response to recommendations in Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy, this new body, which brings together former road, rail and public transport agencies, will be tested.

There are encouraging signs TfV is up to the task when you look at its early impressive record of delivery. Level crossings in Melbourne continue to be removed at a steady pace and there is a continuous pipeline of removals planned over the coming 24 months, with contractors for projects worth $1 billion recently shortlisted.

All told, 37 level crossings will have been removed or be under construction by the end of 2018, which will result in less congestion and improved operator productivity.

Progress is also being made on new road infrastructure, with the VTA closing out 2016 with a huge win on the North East Link.

After a concerted 12-month lobbying effort by the VTA, the RACV and business groups for the connection to be built, the Victorian Government announced a $35 million feasibility study of the connection, and established the North East Link Authority to coordinate planning.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ unequivocal commitment to building the road if his government is returned at the next election is welcome news for thousands of operators who are starved for choice when it comes to traversing between Melbourne’s north and south east.

The VTA looks forward to contributing to planning for the connection, which will inevitably consider the most appropriate routing options. We will loudly advocate for options that deliver the best possible outcome for operators.

The long overdue release of $1.5 billion of East-West Link funds by the Commonwealth, and the associated reallocation of $3 billion in infrastructure funding, is further evidence coordinated planning is becoming a reality.

Part of this reallocation is a $700 million plan to upgrade the M80 Ring Road with additional lanes in each direction, which the VTA welcomes and whose announcement coincided with confirmation that the North East Link would be built.

We are seeing similar funding, construction and planning coordination on other road projects throughout the state, including widening works on the Tullamarine and Monash Freeways.

Formative works are also underway for the $10 billion Melbourne Metro project. While it has yet to have Commonwealth support, it is a vital part of coordinated transport planning, and in time will ease congestion by increasing public transport patronage.

For the transport industry to gain most from coordinated transport planning, it is critical that local governments are actively involved because heavy vehicles, by necessity, require access to local roads to complete essential works.

We need local councils positively involved in mature discourse around access issues, and not automatically opposed to trucks in local areas. There is a worrying trend towards local governments opting for bans and curfews on heavy vehicles as a knee-jerk solution to manage concerns around safety and noise.

Local governments can play an important role in educating their constituents to work with the transport industry, not against it. For any coordinated transport plan to be successful participants from industry, the community and statutory authorities must collaborate constructively.

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