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Offline DVR

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« on: August 13, 2006, 05:33:28 PM »
Hi all,

To kick off the Tasmanian section, below is a reproduction of a recent submission I forwarded to the recent Infrastructure Inquiry held by the A.L.P. Federal Office. I am of the opinion that any opportunity presented by politicians of either side to seek public or internal input on land transport policy should be seized and exploited to the max by rail advocates. There is no doubt the road lobbyists do it for road advancement!  My thanks go to  Assoc. Professor Philip Laird  - University of Wollongong - for assistance with research data.

Sub-heading: "Continued under recovery of heavy road transport costs vs. historic under investment in rail infrastructure tips balance on appropriate modal utilisation."  

   "Proposals made in 2005 by the National Transport Commission (NTC) for a modest increase in registration charges for B-Double trucks drew a strong reaction from the trucking interests including the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association (The Mercury, 11 Oct).  Protests were made in other states. Eventually, following the lead of the Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss, the proposals were rejected on 21 March 2006.

   The NTC's recommendation as part of a third determination was reached after much research and wide ranging consultation. It was recognized for some time that B-Double's were in receipt of significant subsidies, noted in papers put out by the NTC in October 2005 as $8400 per year for a 9 axle B-Double. These papers also note a near three-fold increase in the numbers of B-Doubles since 1997. In addition, since 2000 as part of a New Tax System, many heavy truck operators had been receiving generous diesel excise rebates.

      The reasons given by the Federal Minister for Transport, the Hon Warren Truss MP who refers to a decision of the Australian Government for rejecting the NTC's considered advice are not convincing. It is hard not to disagree with the comments of Alan Woods published on 29 March 2006 in The Australian, in his article, "Truss transport policy is off the road (and rails)? that this step of reducing a subsidy to B-Doubles is "a flagrant defiance of the aim of a proper pricing regime in road transport.

   The road pricing issue is a long-standing one. In the early 1990s, following an intergovernmental agreement, a National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) was formed to determine truck road user charges for Australia.  In 1991, a Federal Interstate Registration Scheme had an annual registration fee of over $11,000 for B-Doubles. However, the NRTC choose to set an annual B-Double registration charge of only $5500. The result was a hidden subsidy for B-Double operations.  Today the aggregate hidden subsidy to B-Double operations throughout Australia by the NTC's conservative estimates is over $100 million per year.

   Significant hidden subsidies also apply to the movement of freight by heavily laden semi-trailers that haul long distances each year.  As the road freight industry is very competitive, the hidden subsidies to the articulated trucks (semitrailers, B-Doubles and road trains) are quickly passed on to those who consign the freight, rather than the hard working drivers or the owners of the trucks.

The National Transport Commission (NTC - ex NRTC) had the difficult job of a third determination of charges for heavy vehicles.  The NTC allocates road system costs using four parameters.  The first parameter is one called equivalent standard axles, which reflects road
wear and tear (where a fully laden B-Double is about 20, 000 times that of an average car), the second is gross vehicle mass kilometres (a ratio of about 65 to 1), the third is passenger car equivalents (4 for a B-Double, 1 for a car) and the last is plain vehicle kilometres.  

   The road freight industry strongly maintains that it pays its way.  On the other hand, the rail industry maintains that the present charges result in trucks gaining an unfair advantage over rail in moving freight. State and local governments maintain they need more road funds from the Federal Government.
   On indication of the hidden subsidies is to look at the charges paid in New Zealand, which has successfully used mass-distance charges for heavy trucks since 1978.  If the operators in Australia of semi-trailers hauling heavy loads long distances each year paid New Zealand charges, they would pay about three times the current Australian charges.  For B-Doubles, the ratio is about four.

Further confirmation of large hidden subsidies comes from a University of Wollongong study finding under-recovery of road system costs from articulated trucks of about $1.3 billion in 1997-98.  Like the NTC, this estimate uses data and the four parameters above; however, for cost allocation the estimate uses methodology due to an earlier NSW Road Freight Industry Inquiry. The average under-recovery works out at 1.25 cents every time one tonne of freight is moved one kilometre by an articulated truck (ie 1.25 cents per net tonne kilometre or n.t.km).

   To this should be added a road crash involvement risk cost, now about 0.6 cents per n.t.km.  There are also environmental costs (air pollution, greenhouse gas costs and noise) which are higher in urban areas than non-urban areas.  The average hidden subsidy for haulage by articulated trucks on arterial roads is about 2 cents per n.t.km.  So, for a container weighing some 20 tonnes being moved by an articulated truck from Burnie to Hobart, a distance of about 320 km, the freight task is 6400 n.t.km. The indicative subsidy is $128.

   This section of road since 1974 has been fully funded by the Federal Government as Tasmania's part of the National Highway System.  Since then, in today's dollars, the Federal Government has outlaid roughly $700 million on this road.  If the same container moved by rail from Burnie to Hobart, it has to move over track, which apart from the odd Government handout is supposed to be maintained by rail freight revenue.  Since the Federal Government sold Tasrail in 1997, there has been little or no Federal or State assistance to the Tasmanian mainline track. Much more has gone to restore the Queenstown to Strahan railway for tourists.

As a result of low road pricing and little government funds for track since the sale of Tasrail, the condition of the track is now poor.  For some time, Tasmania's rail network has had a permanent 60 km/h speed restriction over the entire network plus numerous speed restrictions around tight radius curves and older bridges. There is no shortage of Temporary Speed Restrictions. The axle load limit is 18 tonnes as against 25 tonnes on mainland mainline track or 30 tonnes in the Hunter Valley of NSW.

   The recent moves by the Federal Government to offer funds for rehabilitation of the Tasmanian track are welcome. However, as suggested to the Neville (House of Representatives) Committee's current inquiry, there is a good case for following the New Zealand example for the State taking back the track, and also providing funds for track upgrades. Here, it would help if Pacific National were to   more transparent as to the tonnages they actually move over their network, and the tonnages they could move over better track. In taking account of which mode is better for a given freight task, regard must be given to rail freight external costs as well as the road freight external costs noted above.  The fact that rail uses one third of the fuel that trucks use for bulk and line haul freight is also relevant. "
Z [Tas]

Offline DVR

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Feedback to "Australia's Future Cities" Discussion
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2006, 05:53:09 PM »
Apologies for replying to myself, but further to what I posted earlier, on the same topic, below is a further submission to Senator Kim Carr in response to his  "Australia's Future Cities" Discussion paper.

For your interest:

Dear Senator Carr,
I recently received a copy of the discussion paper "Australia's Future Cities" on Urban Development, Housing and Local Government, from my local branch secretary. I apologise for the delay in getting this to you, but it is only within the last month or two that I have had an opportunity to examine it.
My interest lies specifically with regard to Section 2.5 "Improving Urban Transport"
My responses to the questions "What role can the Commonwealth most usefully play in urban transport planning and delivery?" and "What are the impacts of urban transport blockages on economic activity and on the effectiveness of the land transport system as a whole?" are detailed below:
Firstly, to set the context of my responses, I refer you to the submission I provided to the ALP Infrastructure Inquiry and accepted by Nick Martin on the 30th of April. I also refer you to the submissions provided to the same inquiry by the National Office of the Rail Tram and Bus Union.
With regard to the first question, I submit the following:
The Commonwealth has already accepted responsibility for the National Highway System. It has also agreed to assist with major regional arterial routes (RONIs) with emphasis on connecting the major national ports. There has long been a significant injustice that the equivalent rail routes are not automatically treated the same. In the interests of a level playing field, this is fundamentally wrong. It is essential, as a means to ensure ongoing economic sustainability and avoiding increasing environmental, health and amenity degradation, to correct this imbalance in the ongoing extreme modal bias to road.

The States are already hard pressed to contribute to the maintenance of entire state rail networks, with the competing demands of their own road responsibilities as well as demanding health and education systems. It is essential, that with the resources and economic activity taxation windfall being reaped by the Commonwealth, some of these funds be utilised to relieve the States of responsibility for interstate rail routes (as well as those that feed interstate commerce eg. Cairns - Brisbane and Hobart - Burnie). The Commonwealth should also ensure that the States subsequently assume responsibility for the remaining suburban and intrastate network (wheat, timber & mineral lines) that have been neglected as a result of having to support the interstate network. It would be self defeating for the national interest for the Commonwealth to relieve the States of the National network, just for the States to go "Thanks" and walk away from their remaining rail infrastructure responsibilities. There is also a case for the Commonwealth supporting councils to take some responsibility for suburban or rural branch lines in their respective municipalities, as a means of allowing them to ease the increasing road burden.

The failure of the states to ensure the urban rail passenger network keeps pace with urban spread is creating a growing deficit of transport resource that will be increasingly difficult to correct. The lessons already learnt in metropolises like Los Angeles, that the continued reliance on highway building is doomed to failure, is not getting through to urban transport planners in Australia. The "cult of the individual" and national obsession with the motor car is a cancer that will slowly choke our cities to a standstill in congestion of movement, environmental putrification and loss of health and amenity. The Commonwealth must take the lead in applying lessons learnt overseas and provide means through taxation benefits to the states to encourage the building of new suburban rail lines in preference to new freeways. There are numerous areas in the mainland capitals that are facing future hardship by being denied access to rail based public transport. Examples include the Sunshine Coast, Redcliffe Peninsula and south eastern suburbs in Brisbane, south west and north west suburbs in Sydney, numerous eastern suburbs of Melbourne and a huge expanse of Adelaide, ranging from the entire western suburban area, the south coast and the Hills. Only Perth, through the commendable foresight of the Gallop / Carpenter Government and thanks to the dedication and fortitude of Minister Alannah MacTiernan, is committed to building for the future in extending the suburban network to keep up with urban expansion. Other state Labor Governments have promised much in the way of suburban rail expansion, but unlike W.A,. have mostly failed to deliver. The Commonwealth must pressure the States to keep to their commitments through whatever incentives can be deemed appropriate.

As detailed in the RTBU's submission on the Financing and Provision of Transport Infrastructure, the attraction of Public & Private Partnerships is fading with most of the attractions of the idea failing in practice - especially with rail - for example, the Brisbane and Sydney Airport Rail Links or becoming a source of scandal and inappropriate concessions - for example, the Sydney Cross City Tunnel. National and State Infrastructure is a core responsibility of Government and it is the height of irresponsibility to duck this responsibility. Would the Commonwealth consider privatising the entire national road network? Maybe some lunatics in the Howard Govt. might consider it, however the proposition is preposterous, as should be the privatisation of strategic national and state infrastructure.

The incompatibility of freight movement within major urban centres versus intense suburban passenger traffic is most apparent in Sydney, but is also potentially an issue in the other mainland capitals. A benefit of the Commonwealth assuming responsibility for the interstate network and port connections is to ensure the infrastructure for that is separated from that required to support suburban traffic. In Sydney, that means dedicated freight lines that can eliminate the "curfew" on freight movement within the Sydney urban area and permit the transit of "double-stack" rolling stack that is currently excluded from the Sydney area. In Brisbane, planning is required for future provision of additional capacity to insulate freight movement from the growing suburban traffic demands in that city. The provision by the Commonwealth of a standard gauge realigned link through the Liverpool ranges to Toowoomba to connect with the planned Australian Inland Rail Expressway or alternative inland rail proposals allows Brisbane to gain from more efficient freight logistics as well as offer potential efficient passenger access between Brisbane/Ipswich and Toowoomba. In Melbourne, there is already some segregation, courtesy of the differing gauges - but that in itself is an impediment to free movement throughout that city. The Commonwealth needs to assist in promoting gauge standardisation and dual gauging where necessary to remove physical impediments to free movement of freight and people. The gauge situation and geological obstacles create major problems in Adelaide. Providing a bypass of the Mt. Lofty ranges and Adelaide itself to permit the transit of "double-stack" rolling stock between Melbourne / Adelaide / Perth is increasingly essential due to the growing rail freight task between the east and west coasts. An additional benefit is freeing up the Mount Lofty route for suburban rail expansion whilst maintaining an alternative freight access to Adelaide for traffic like wheat direct to port. Again, in Adelaide, Commonwealth support for conversion to standard gauge of all trackage, eliminates physical barriers to free movement of freight and people.

The Commonwealth has a common interest in Ports and Airports and a need to ensure these essential hubs are provided with every means of logistical infrastructure to support their role in servicing their respective localities. This means rail as well as road links. It is unsatisfactory to have these hubs missing rail access as a rule. Or worse, being threatened with loss of that access. It is imperative that the Commonwealth support the provision or retention of rail access to all major air and sea ports. In Sydney and Brisbane the Commonwealth needs to negotiate with the respective states about assuming some co-operative responsibility for their airport links considering the failed PPP's involved in those projects. In Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, the Commonwealth could consider a co-operative venture with those respective states to provide heavy rail (i.e. Melbourne) or light rail (i.e. Adelaide & Perth) access to their airports. As for sea ports, the Commonwealth can assist the states to refurbish port access (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth) or protect it (Hobart). Hobart is unique in that it's rail access is under threat entirely. This is intolerable. Whilst the present primary rail user, Pacific National, is happy to relocate is southern base of operations out of the city (at Brighton) and truck freight into and out of Hobart, this will create a barrier to potential future third party rail users requiring access to Hobart and to major Hobart based customers like Zinifex at Risdon, who may opt in the future to increase use of rail. In the national interest and state interest, any threat to the existence of the rail link into Hobart must be forcefully opposed.

In a number of cities such as Adelaide and Brisbane, there is a growing reliance on bus networks in preference to the rail network. Whilst superficially attractive, this is unsustainable in the future. Buses are not an adequate solution to road congestion and themselves contribute to it. Buses have a valuable role to play in the public transport equation, but as a means of enhancing the rail network, not replacing it. In comparison to rail, buses are inefficient in line haul and environmentally. As a public transport option, they are the least attractive option after taxis, heavy and light rail. There is value in buses feeding rail hubs and interchanges and suburbs that are remote from rail access. The use of buses to work with, rather than against, rail is the best way to exploit the respective strengths of, what should be, complimentary modes. Bus-ways, whilst superficially attractive, are also a flawed public transport solution. Expensive to construct and subject to encountering the intractable obstacles of general road congestion where they terminate, a far better option is reserving bus lanes on major highways and streets and where a highly engineered bus-way may have been an option, light rail may be a more efficient long term option.

Light rail with reserved formations and priority street transit needs to be considered far more frequently. The revival of light rail in the United States, with generally great success, serves as a great example to contemporary needs in Australia's major cities. Light rail is an increasingly popular means of providing the advantages of rail transit to areas that are not in a position to viably support heavy rail. Again, as with bus networks, light rail shouldn't be considered in place of heavy rail where heavy rail can be viably used, as Light rail hasn't got the capacity and system advantages of the heavy rail system. Light Rail should be a means of enhancing the urban transport portfolio, rather than degrading it. Where Light Rail projects have been considered or are under development, such as the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, it is advantageous to the optimisation of the growth of these networks for the Commonwealth to offer support to the state and Municipal administrations considering or developing these.

Alternative public transport options, such as river transport, should also be eligible for Commonwealth support. Already a major part of the Sydney transport portfolio, there is potential for growth in cities like Hobart, Brisbane and Perth.

Moving on to the second question put in the discussion paper, my comments are as follows;

The current modal mix of public transport options in Australia's major conurbations is inefficient, unbalanced and unsustainable for the future growth projections planned for Australia's cities. As the mix currently stands, the occurrence of increasing instances of severe urban transport blockages is assured.

Urban transport blockages - the failure of people or goods to move as desired or in a timely fashion within Australia's cities - will deleteriously impact on economic activity through loss of productivity and higher personal and logistical costs. This in turn leads to decreases in consumption leading to decreases in production, resultant job losses, further decreases in consumption, production and employment - a vicious circle. The avoidance of urban transport blockages is therefore vital for economic sustainability.

The failure to correct the current dysfunctional modal mix in urban transport will undermine the ability of all modes to work to an appropriate measure of functionality and efficiency. Over reliance on the road network simply chokes it through excessive use. Endlessly enhancing the road network simply encourages more dependence on the road mode and is a self defeating exercise, as traffic is encouraged to increase faster than the roads can be built, hence the congestion problem is never "solved" through road building - only increased. There are numerous studies in existence that support this point of view. Despite the rising costs of fuel, the decreasing costs of Asian built cars and declining availability and convenience of public transport is driving up the public use of the road network. As fuel costs continue to rise, increased pollutants toxify the urban atmosphere and the ratio of car induced death and trauma increases, the "livability" of cities continues to decline.

A Commonwealth led forcible correction to the transport modal mix in Australia's major cities is the only way Australia's capitals can be saved from sliding from first world to third world livability standards. An emphasis in encouraging a major shift of freight and people to rail will provide significant relief to the increasingly overstretched road network. A freer road network will provide economic relief to Government through road building / maintenance demands, environmental outcomes and public health. More transport options for residents allows freer and cheaper means of movement, higher productivity and increased economic prospects for business.

There is no room for standing still. Doing nothing is not an option. Failure to deal with this country's dysfunctional transport modal mix is a guarantee that the economic outlook for residents and business will fall. Short term political expediency has led to policy paralysis. Past governments have shown they can embrace the "big picture" (e.g. the Snowy Scheme). It is time for the Commonwealth to demonstrate some courage and generate and encourage some long term investment in the nations transport infrastructure - specifically rail. Otherwise, governments such as the current Federal administration, can be assured of a future legacy of sabotaging this nations future.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Z [Tas]

Offline ozbob

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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2006, 06:00:46 PM »

Thanks for posting such pertinent, important and timely correspondence and  information.  Well done.

Half baked projects, have long term consequences ...
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