Industry welcomes $200m agriculture infrastructure fund

Road improvements in Victoria’s west will allow for productive and safe HPFVs, VTA says.

Industry welcomes $200m agriculture infrastructure fund
Port of Melbourne.


The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has backed the Victorian government’s proposed $200 million Agriculture Infrastructure and Jobs Fund to subsidise projects between Geelong and the Port of Melbourne, highlighting the economic and safety improvements of High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFVs).

Describing HPFVs as the "future of heavy road transport in this country," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says the plans to improve their freight routes, such as the Princess Freeway, will see greater productivity for farmers and transport operators, while also improving safety road users.

"HPFVs are the safest heavy transport vehicles on the road today, as well as being the newest and most technically advanced," Anderson says.

"Longer trucks that carry greater loads are a proven way of reducing the number of heavy vehicles that use road infrastructure, which can significantly help to ease traffic congestion on our freeways and connecting roads."

Funding for the yet-to-be quantified road upgrades is dependent on the successful lease of the Port of Melbourne, which faces opposition in the Parliament.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers says that while the announcement is positive,  the "fund only comes into being if the port lease bill passes the Upper House" and with the Greens and Coalition opposing the legislation, and holding a majority, there is a "fair bit of politics in it".

The long term plans of the West Gate Bridge, which is a "key piece of infrastructure on that route", is still to be decided, Chambers says, with VicRoads currently undertaking its assessment of the roads involved.

A solution to the West Gate Bridge has been a cause for concern for freight operators, enhanced by the Webb Dock expansion scheduled to be completed by December 2016.

Modelling by the Port of Melbourne predicted the number of vehicles visiting the new dock will double by 2015, putting truck numbers over 6,000.

The Labor government is projecting a $6 billion boost to its coffers with the port lease, $200 million of which will be placed in the fund to boost the agricultural industry in western Victoria but details on where the money will flow is yet to be confirmed.

While the finances will be divided among skills development programs, market access campaigns, and irrigation and energy projects, the VTA believes improving the roads for HPFVs will see local businesses compete nationally and globally.

"Farmers and freight operators also benefit because HPFVs are more economical to operate, which improves their margins and can help to free up capital for investing elsewhere in their businesses, which in turn is good for the economy," Anderson says.

"Ultimately, it is the whole supply chain from the farms through to the Port that benefits from road infrastructure upgrades that accommodate HPFV’s – we now need to see similar investment commitments on other major road corridors throughout Victoria."



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