Widespread damage and disruption from wild weather in North Queensland recently has reinforced the need for a new approach to investment in road freight networks, believes the state’s peak trucking body.
“Our airports and ports are all-weather, so roads and bridges should be as well,” said Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon.
“We should have at least one all-weather route that you could rely upon around this country so all communities can feel confident that regardless of the weather they can be replenished.
“We’re building roads and bridges to a budget [at present] that I don’t think is sufficient, and we need to think differently about a key corridor that delivers around this country.”
Mahon said floods, cyclones, and the like, are not unfamiliar to anyone in Australia with well-established “pinch-points” across the freight network from coast to coast.
“We’ve got to be prepared to build some different styles of roads and some higher bridges to be able to withstand all-weather impacts.
“We know we can’t afford that on a whole heap of roads in this country, but we need to get serious about doing it for at least one corridor.”
From a freight perspective, Mahon is adamant that the proposed Inland Freight Route from Charters Towers to Mungindi, remains the best option in the short term.
“You need to spend less money on that route to make it all-weather. You need to spend a lot more money on the Bruce to make it all-weather.”
Mahon said there are three bridges on the route that should be replaced – at Emerald, the Dawson, and the floodway treatments along the Belyando – and you’d “fundamentally” have an all-weather corridor right up into the Far North.
Towards Brisbane, the Bremer River Bridge should also be replaced, he added.
“We also need to think about [a bridge] at the base of the Toowoomba Second Range. There is not an actual bridge there but it’s a culvert floodway treatment that needs to be done.”
Just before Christmas, Mahon was part of a Queensland delegation that accompanied the then deputy premier Steven Miles to Canberra to pitch the case for more spending on Queensland roads, emphasising the “economic carry” benefits over traffic volumes.
“We just think the perspective that’s taken on how they prioritise infrastructure should have a better rating towards regional value than just urban considerations so regional roads get a fairer go.
“Otherwise, the big-ticket projects around urban areas get the priority every single time.”
Mahon said the meetings were positive and Canberra was receptive to the state’s argument.
“What we’re waiting to see is will that actually change anything in the May [federal] budget.”
The last federal government committed to an 80:20 split with Queensland on the $1 billion Inland Freight Route, but Labor’s Infrastructure Minister Catherine King stalled the project last November for further “business case analysis”.
Meanwhile, the Western Roads Federation also called for a more robust freight network after storms again exposed the weaknesses on Australia Day.