NSW Shadow Minister for Roads John Graham was disappointed to hear that Sydney is now considered the least ‘friendly’ city for truckies on the east coast, perhaps all of Australia.
With its vast network of speed cameras, an ever-expanding labyrinth of toll roads and the dearth of metropolitan rest areas, Graham acknowledges that it’s never been tougher to do business there.
“We’ve heard the message, particularly around the lack of rest stops and lack of services between Pheasants Nest and the Central Coast,” Graham told attendees at the Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) conference in Sydney earlier this month.
“It is something we’d like to work with industry on and look for solutions, both on parking and the rest stop front.
“We acknowledge we have to do better, and we’re determined to turn it around. We have to make trucking easier in Sydney if we’re actually going to allow you to do the job and allow everyone to have the benefit of that.”
Graham’s big pitch to industry ahead of the March 25 state election, also included a pledge to ease cost of living pressures, such as energy prices and operators’ toll bills.
Truckies doing two trips a day, five days a week on the M5 East and M8 in Sydney will save up to $3800 a year if Labor wins.
The new scheme, which would run for two years from January 1 next year, reduces the truck toll from three times that of a car to two times, and is capped at 10 trips each week.
But the biggest Labor headline on the day was around the announcement that an elected Chris Minns government would deliver a $1.1 billion package of road upgrades over the next three years.
Major early projects in that package were:
• $75 million for Bandon Road, Riverstone, on top of the federal government’s $75 million spend;
• $50 million to fix Hill Road in Homebush; and
• $10 million towards additional entry and exit ramps on the M1 Princes Motorway, around Dapto.
“Our priority is on local roads and bottlenecks, not on new toll road infrastructure, which is driving up toll prices,” said Graham.
Shadow Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison told attendees at the RFNSW event she was appalled at the lack of regional road investment by the state Coalition over the last 12 years.
“Someone is killed or hospitalised because of a crash on NSW roads every 46 minutes, and two-thirds of those happen on regional roads, with fatality rates four time higher than on urban roads,” said Aitchison.
“What we want to see are those roads that people are using, the local roads, being upgraded, not these massive toll roads that are not necessarily the solution to the problem.”
Aitchison acknowledged that the state government was talking a “big game” about fixing country roads and had some big promises at this election.
But she also wanted to remind attendees that it wasn’t until Labor revealed that $80 million had disappeared from the Fixing Country Roads bucket that it suddenly returned.
Aitchison also said that the $500 million the Coalition had committed to fixing potholes also wasn’t as rosy at it sounded.
“Regional councils were really excited because they’d really been struggling since the floods, but when you break that down to a per kilometre rate, it’s $1825 per kilometre – they need more funding.”
If elected Labor will also hit pause on construction of the controversial Great Western Highway upgrade, linking Sydney to western NSW, citing the budget blowout as the reason to take a second look at the project.
Ron Finemore, owner of the Orange-based Ron Finemore Transport, told ABC News that Labor’s decision is disappointing, and both country and city people would miss out on the benefits.
“This link should have been been built 50 years ago, but it hasn’t been,” he said. “The big issue across the Blue Mountains is the safety.”