The Victorian Transport Association has welcomed a raft of new and improved transport infrastructure in a report presented to the Victorian Parliament by the state’s infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Victoria.
The report builds on Infrastructure Victoria’s first integrated strategy from 2016 and addresses key challenges facing the state over the coming three decades including a growing and ageing population, technological transformation, climate change, and worsening congestion on our transport network. Of the report’s 94 recommendations, many specifically address the needs of freight operators whose volumes are on track to almost triple by 2050, including:
• Construction of a new Outer Ring Road and rail corridor that would ease pressure on the M80 and provide a much-needed free-flowing road transport network in Melbourne’s fast-growing north, west, and northwest;
• Construction of a Cross City Motorway (CCM) facilitating east-west travel for people and freight through a connection between the West Gate Tunnel/CityLink and Eastern Freeway;
• Significant investments in new passenger rail including the Metro Two project, Western Rail Corridor upgrades, reconfiguration of the City Loop and upgrades to the Northern Rail Corridor, taking cars of roads and freeing up existing road infrastructure for heavy vehicles and freight;
• Investments in Road Management Systems to reduce congestion;
• Supporting efforts to optimise capacity at the Port of Melbourne to ensure Victoria can remain the freight capital of Australia; and
• Investments in new intermodal freight terminals to coincide with completion of the Melbourne-Brisbane Inland Rail Project.
The VTA has long supported the construction of new infrastructure so that the freight industry can productively, efficiently and safely transport exponentially growing volumes of freight.
Infrastructure Victoria has rightly identified the risks of not acting and planning now for our future transport needs. Big trucks need big roads, and this report identifies key new roads such as the Cross City Motorway and an Outer Ring Road to cater for freight and keep arterial roads for passenger vehicle traffic where possible.
These two road projects have been on the VTA’s radar for some time. Whilst the state and Commonwealth have been investing in the inner M80 ring road, we’ve anticipated the need for an outer orbital road to keep pace with population growth on the fringes of Melbourne, and the associated need for road freight corridors to service these populations. We must also mitigate the need for heavy vehicles to transit through the city when going around it would create productivity and efficiency gains.
As for the Cross City Motorway, this is effectively a rebadged East West Link – a project the VTA and many others have always supported to provide a common-sense continuation of the Eastern Freeway into CityLink and the Tullamarine Freeway. If a new name is what it takes to build this vital missing piece of transport infrastructure then we support it.
We also welcome investments in commuter rail in the plan because fewer cars reduce congestion, making the road network more productive for freight operators. As our economy starts to reopen with increasing rates of vaccination, people will return to work and the last thing we need is for them to shun public transport and jump in the car. Having more frequent and affordable commuter rail options is critically important to encouraging public transport patronage and not clogging our road networks.
Sustaining the Port of Melbourne as Australia’s largest container port is essential for Victoria to remain the freight capital of Australia, so we support the Infrastructure Victoria recommendations around optimising capacity at that Port, whilst planning long-term for a second port long-term.
Equally important is not compromising the Port of Melbourne precinct with public transport projects that pit commuters against heavy vehicles. Fisherman’s Bend has been earmarked as home for 80,000 people over time, and whilst we support public transport options for these communities, it must not encroach the Lorimer Street freight route, which must be preserved for heavy vehicles and HPFVs.