Last week the Australian Government unveiled the federal budget and revealed that it would spend $3.5 billion on upgrading key freight corridors across regional Australia. The government says this will support the tourism industry and increase road safety.
The $3.5 billion will be used in the Roads of Strategic Importance (RoSI) initiative over the next ten years to upgrade main routes for communities and businesses and of the full amount, $25 million will be spent in 2018-19.
Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack said that the Budget was addressing Australia’s current infrastructure needs and the needs of the future through its ten-year investment plan. The $3.5 billion initiative would upgrade our key freight corridors across Australia.
Overall, the plan is to assign $1.5 billion of the RoSI funds for road infrastructure in northern Australia and $400 million to upgrades in Tasmania. This includes improving the Bass Highway.
$132 million has been allocated to the Princes Highway, Victoria, $971 million for the Coffs Harbour Bypass in New South Wales and $3.3 billion to the Bruce Highway in Queensland.
In Western Australia, $220 million will be spent on the Great Northern Highway constructing the Bindoon bypass. $100 million has been allocated to upgrade the Barton Highway over the next ten years, which connects the Australian Capital Territory to regional New South Wales.
The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) praised the allocation of funds and said that the potential is there to improve the road transport industry efficiency. However, they wanted to be confident that state and local governments were also committed to improve access to roads for oversized vehicles.
NatRoad claims that the current system is flawed and they want to see it fixed. Some members, for example, are able to get permits for both ends of a road, but not sections in between.
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) agrees with NatRoad and says that a key condition for road funding to state and local governments, including the RoSI initiative, should be access for OSOM (oversize/overmass) vehicles.
ATA chairman, Geoff Crouch, also says that trucking operators who transport OSOM freight are in crisis because getting permits takes so long. According to Crouch, 4.5 million days every year are spent by freight transport Australia simply waiting to get permission to transport freight.
He says that conditions should be attached to infrastructure funding, requiring states and local councils to respond to permit applications more quickly.