In the evolving landscape of Victoria’s transport networks, the importance of robust infrastructure cannot be overstated.
As the heartbeat of our economy, efficient road and rail systems are essential for the seamless movement of goods and people. While the spotlight often shines developments in the city, it is crucial not to neglect the arteries that connect our regional communities.
As an industry group the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) firmly believes sustained investment in regional road and rail infrastructure is not just a matter of convenience; it is a fundamental necessity for maintaining and enhancing living standards across the state.
Reliable regional transport infrastructure is the lifeblood of economic prosperity. Efficient road and rail connections ensure that farmers can get their goods to consumers promptly, preserving the freshness of perishable goods and minimising transportation costs. This not only supports the livelihoods of regional producers but also contributes to our overall economic health.
Modern industries require seamless connectivity to thrive, and well-maintained roads and rail lines ensure that businesses can transport raw materials and finished products with ease. Therefore, investing in regional transport is an investment in the economic future of Victoria.
Beyond economic considerations, the importance of regional transport infrastructure extends to the social fabric of our communities.
For many regional dwellers, a well-maintained road network means easier access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and emergency services. It ensures people can commute without enduring the challenges of poorly maintained roads, fostering a sense of connectivity and community.
The significance of regional transport infrastructure is especially evident when considering the health and safety of our citizens. In times of crisis, be it a medical emergency or a natural disaster, the ability to swiftly transport resources and personnel can mean the difference between life and death.
We saw this last year when floodwaters ruined parts of regional Victoria, cutting communities off for weeks and months, prompting our calls for $1 billion to repair and reinstate road and rail transportation infrastructure lost to a one in 100-year flood event.
Those floods did huge amounts of damage to gazetted freight routes, isolating regional communities, with waters taking weeks to recede, ruining houses, commercial businesses, and other structures and facilities. Their impact continues to be felt throughout the state, with dozens of communities still rebuilding what was lost.
Our advocacy is for better co-ordination between Victorian and Commonwealth governments when it comes to maintaining essential freight routes, urging all sides of politics to come together to repair and reinstatement of roads, bridges, and rail lines.
We therefore welcomed a significant increase in funding for two road infrastructure programs by transport and infrastructure minister Catherine King.
Her recent doubling of Roads to Recovery funding from $500 million to $1 billion over time, along with an increase in Black Spot funding to $150 million per year, will contribute to greater safety and productivity for regional transport operators, as well as living standards improvements for all.
We’re grateful for what is a very substantial reinvestment in our regional roads and bridges nationally, many of which are in varying states of disrepair after fire and flood, and through general wear and tear.
As we look to the future, it is imperative that policymakers recognise the central role of regional transport infrastructure in maintaining living standards across Victoria.
We continue to advocate for sustained investment in road and rail networks outside metropolitan areas. This includes not only maintenance but also forward-looking projects that enhance connectivity, reduce travel times, and improve overall transport efficiency.
Regional transport infrastructure is the backbone of our state and national prosperity and the key to ensuring we all can enjoy a high standard of living. By prioritising the development and maintenance of regional road and rail networks doing so, we strengthen our economic resilience and reaffirm our commitment to creating communities where everyone can thrive.
As we approach the holiday season, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. I look forward to engaging with Big Rigs readers again in 2024.
- Peter Anderson is the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association.