As floodwaters slowly recede in regional Victoria after the devastation of record rainfall in south-east Australia last month, the damage to the state’s road and rail transportation network is becoming clearer.
Hundreds of kilometres of roads have been impacted, with damage ranging from small, medium and large potholes, through to entire swathes of roadway being lifted up and literally washed away.
The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) says up to $1 billion may be needed to reinstate damaged road and rail networks and is urging all sides of federal and state politics to come together with a plan and additional funding for the work that lies ahead.
VTA CEO Peter Anderson says current Victorian budget allocations for road safety, maintenance, repairs and upgrades are already committed to projects that were in place before the floods, and that significantly more is now needed.
“We estimate between $500 million and $1 billion will be needed to fix our flood devastated transport networks, which includes gazetted routes operators rely on to carry freight,” Anderson said.
“This funding must be additional to project allocations in the state budget, and as politicians traverse Victoria contesting the election, we’re looking for meaningful announcements on fixing the damage that’s been done, and we’re looking for it urgently.”
Anderson said the extraordinary repair bill needed to be addressed by state and federal governments because, whilst it is mainly state road infrastructure that has been damaged, the impact will be felt nationally.
“We are already seeing evidence of how national supply chains have been compromised with farmers struggling to get their goods out of regional Victoria to the ports and on to interstate and international markets,” he said.
“The flow-on effect will be felt leading up to Christmas in the form of higher consumer prices and a shortage of supply.”
Anderson said setting aside the impact on supply chains, there is a real likelihood of personal injury and lives lost because of the inevitable spike in accidents damaged roads will be a factor in.
“Our road authorities are doing a magnificent job quarantining motorists from damaged roads, but the size and scale of this event means accidents will unfortunately happen. The risk of this is felt most by the road freight industry that is acutely aware of its obligation to its customers and the Australian community to keep our supply chains moving as safely as they can.
“This underscores the urgency of the task ahead, which is why we’re advocating for rapid evaluation, development of a repair strategy and the qualifying of cost with the support that a plan will be acted upon to make our regional roads safe and operable as soon as possible.
“Until that happens, every road tragedy created by the condition of the roads from this point will burn on our collective conscious.”
VicRoads says that since the beginning of the flood emergency, more than 500 roads have been closed, with more than 150 already reopened.
As part of a $351 million Victorian State Government package to help support communities impacted by the floods, a $165 million has been allocated to an emergency road repair blitz.
These funds will go towards finding and fixing potholes, asphalting and repairing road surfaces damaged by the recent floods.
It will also cover large-scale works like rebuilding roads, bridges and culverts, particularly in the hardest hit areas of Western, Loddon Mallee and Hume regions.