ATN: Infrastructure focus of Victorian pre-budget submissions. 22 April 2014
Major peak bodies seek spending on roads rail and ports in lead-up to State Budget
Pre-Budget submissions to the Victorian Government are mounting with several non-transport industry representative bodies advocating transport infrastructure funding.
One common theme has been support for the East West Link, though regional roads, rail freight and links to the new Melbourne wholesale market also feature prominently.
Amongst the more vocal is the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), which has a vested interest in road and rail.
The VFF seeks more work on the prospect of the North East link connecting the M80 Ring Road at Greensborough and the Eastern Freeway.
“Anecdotally there will be high demand within the agriculture sector for the link, considering the feed demands for the large dairy production region of Gippsland. In Gippsland, there are currently 1523 active dairy farms with an average herd size of 299,” the VFF’s submission states.
“Based on average intake of feed and supplements there is an annual requirement of over 600kt annually.
“This equates to over 100 truck trips daily to ship feed from the north, northwest and west of the State to Gippsland. Considering these states do not include feed demand for pig and poultry farms.
“In additional to the southeast flow of feed to Gippsland, the Northeast link would also facilitate the western flow of fresh produce and flowers from the eastern Melbourne Yarra Ranges area. Currently, over 25 per cent of all buyers, growers, wholesalers and agents are from the Melbourne’s east and southeast.
“Considering the growth of both the Gippsland dairy industry and the growth forecast for the Melbourne market after the move to Epping, even before the additional of other freight and passenger flows, the justification for the northeast link becomes compelling.”
VFF Grains Group President Brett Hosking recently also reiterated a long-sung refrain on the state of the grain supply chain network at a recent conference.
“There are lines where you could jog past the trains, they’re going that slow because of the poor condition of the track,” Hosking says.
“Poor tracks mean longer delivery times, slower turnaround times, and reduced track capacity − all resulting in reduced efficiency and higher freight costs to growers.”
Conference panellists highlighted that it costs an average of about $70 a tonne to get grain to port in Victoria, which equates to about 30 per cent of growers’ cost of production.
“Getting rid of our dual gauge lines in Victoria, so that it’s all standard gauge, will deliver enormous efficiencies and cut freight costs,” Hosking says.
The VFF wants major parties to commit $250 million to the standardisation and upgrade of the state’s rail freight lines.
But panellists highlighted that the rail freight network was just one component of the supply chain.
“There’s no point upgrading the rail lines to get grain to port quicker if trains or trucks get caught up in delays at port or at up-country receival sites.
“There is a need for co-investment by state and federal government in rail, and industry investment in efficient storage and handling silos and ports to increase our states efficient export capability.”
The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VECCI) wants the State Government to deliver East West Link Stage 1, with the PPP contract awarded by November while concurrently starting the statutory planning process for Stage 2, “ensuring a future port connection and completion to the Western Ring Road so as to provide an alternative crossing to the West Gate Bridge”.
The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) is already on record as backing the East West Link to “ease congestion and provide a much needed, long-term alternative to the M1 corridor”.
It is also looking for progress on developing the Port of Hastings as Melbourne’s container shipping point, given the increasing strains on the capacity of Port Melbourne due to container traffic volume increases.
“The development of the second port is critical for the future of the growing freight trade and the viability of the sector well beyond the next decade,” Ai Group’s submission states.
“This project will enable Melbourne to reap the full advantages of enhanced trade links with the booming Asian economies.
“We would welcome further progress and a firm commitment by the Victorian Government to ensure industry has access to a second port before crippling bottlenecks emerge and harm productivity.”