LETTER: Basin rail failure costs consumers

Transurban’s recent announcement it had grossed $813 million in tolls from CityLink is good news for investors, but comes at a cost not only for commuters, but for all Victorian consumers. 

Transurban has negotiated a deal with the Victorian Government that allows City Link tolls to increase by 4.25 per cent every year until 2029. The announcement high­lighted a 5.5 per cent increase in heavy vehicles, accounting for 20 per cent of CityLink users.

Trucks now account for one in every five vehicles on Melbourne’s tolled roads. What legacy is this Victorian Government leaving for ­future generations? These addit­ional costs will not just be borne by the users of CityLink; these costs will now be attributed to all Victorians as the costs of goods will increase due to a reliance on road freight in Victoria and increased cost associated with this mode.

The Murray Basin Rail Project (MBRP), heralded by the Andrews government as removing 20,000 truck movements from the Victor­ian road network per year and moving more freight on to rail, was due to be completed last year.

The MBRP is now at a standstill after the minister, Jacinta Allan, walked away from it, announcing the project was out of funds, with stage two of the five-stage project incomplete. If ever there was a catalyst to get this project back on track, surely an announced 5.5 per cent increase in heavy vehicles would be it.

If ever there was a time to invest in rail freight in Victoria it is now, the continued reliance on bigger and bigger trucks does nothing for road safety, congestion, amenity nor reduced vehicle emissions. Rail is the most cost-effective and safest transport mode for freight. 

The MBRP was to be the start of a revival in rail freight in Vic­toria.For the Andrews government to walk away from this commitment will cost all Victorians dearly.

With rural and regional Victorians already feeling the Andrews government has left them high and dry, it appears that Daniel ­Andrews’ campaign slogan of “Say What You Do, Do What You Say”, doesn’t cover all Victorians. 

But the failure to complete the MBRP will certainly affect all Victorians. More trucks, bigger trucks and an expensive freight system will push up the cost of living in Victoria and Transurban’s revenue. 

Glenn Milne, 

Rail Freight Alliance Chair

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