It’s time we got serious about road funding reform

Feb 5, 2019 – The Commonwealth needs to accelerate the reform process around road pricing and investment, according to Australia’s peak road stakeholder body.

In its Commonwealth Budget Submission, Roads Australia has also called for funding to:

  • implement the recommendations of the National Road Safety Strategy, including a campaign to raise awareness of road worker safety;
  • establish a network across the three tiers of government for formal collaboration on integrated transport and land use planning;
  • boost the capability of the Office of Future Transport Technologies over the forward estimates to ensure a smooth and co-ordinated transition to automated vehicles;
  • develop international collaborations to access network control technologies, mapping systems and hydrogen fuel technology that will further prepare Australia for a cleaner, safer and more efficient transport future; 
  • accelerate investment in mass transit systems in our cities; and
  • help boost capacity in the construction industry, including support for a business case to increase skilled migration in the transport infrastructure sector.

Roads Australia President, David Stuart-Watt, says despite numerous calls to action from business groups, government inquiries and advisory bodies such as Infrastructure Australia and the Productivity Commission, there’s been little real progress in mapping out and initiating the micro-economic reforms necessary to reposition the way we fund and price roads.

“In November 2016, we welcomed the Federal Government's announcement of a study, to be led by an eminent Australian, into the potential benefits and impacts of road-user charging in Australia,” Mr Stuart-Watt says.

“Notwithstanding the work done on the National Heavy Vehicle Charging Pilot, it is disappointing that the Commonwealth has not pursued the micro-economic reform pathway with a greater sense of urgency.”

Mr Stuart-Watt says fuel excise is an inequitable instrument for recovery of revenue to support building and maintaining Australia’s road networks.

“It collects a lower distance-based road-user charge from more fuel-efficient vehicles and hybrid fuel/electric vehicles, and zero collections from electric vehicles,” he says.

“On the other hand, distance-based and/or time-of-day charging is a much more effective and transparent demand management tool for influencing driver behavior.

“To maintain the confidence of industry and road users, it is essential that road pricing and investment reform models are transparent and equitable for all road users, and linked to clear infrastructure investment plans.”

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