How long will governments be able to get away with pulling the wool over our eyes? This week saw the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Infrastructure etc, Warren Truss, announce a program to improve the bridges on the highways of Australia.
The announcement came out in the usual self-congratulatory way. It told us the Australian Government is investing a massive $100 million to fund 164 bridges. These are going to, ‘deliver much-needed economic and safety benefits to communities around Australia under Round Two of the Bridges Renewal Programme’.
The statement tells us how popular the initiative is because there has been a significant increase in the number and quality of applications from local governments. 270 councils around the country put in applications seeking around $220 million in funding, with 141 being successful.
Right from the start we see the government came up with less than half of the money needed. Secondly, we are also aware how little local government understand the wider infrastructure needs of the transport industry. Just ask anyone going through a PBS application.
$220 million was asked for, but how much money would be needed to enable the trucking industry to handle the growing freight task with improved productivity? Do some specific improvements to infrastructure, especially bridges in New South Wales and massive productivity gains will come into effect immediately. Road managers constantly tell us the amount of work needed to be done to improve the infrastructure, to a point where we could run A-doubles or B-triples, is in the billions.
In the past, these kinds of discussions have been fairly vague about the genuine impact. Every operator could enumerate one specific infrastructure road block which stymies their development, but no overall picture has emerged.
That was true until now. With the release of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s enhanced performance heat map technology we may be able to get the big picture. NHVR has collated and compared twelve months of freight movement data to improve understanding of where the blockages are positioned
The NHVR announcement of the new technology says, ‘the maps will provide local government with the ability to compare permit requests and work with adjoining councils to locate where improvements can be made to the road network’.
More to the point this data should also give the industry the kind of tools needed to demonstrate how inadequate the funding is for infrastructure improvement. It should enable us to concentrate efforts into the specific areas where it will be of the most benefit.
The final data will also demonstrate how much of a cruel joke, is the commitment of the current federal government of $300 million over five years for bridge upgrades and repairs. This new data should demonstrate how harmful the inadequate spending on infrastructure has been for many, many years and how hamstrung the road transport industry is in trying to keep up with the freight task.