Will the West Gate Tunnel ‘ban trucks’?

Will the West Gate Tunnel ‘ban trucks’?

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), representing companies responsible for the majority of container transport to and from the Port of Melbourne, has called on the Andrews’ Victorian Labor Government to help container transport operators get a ‘fair go’ in the toll pricing to use the West Gate Tunnel.

CTAA was responding to the announcements by the Victorian Premier that a consortium headlined by John Holland and CPB Contractors has been selected to build the West Gate Tunnel Project (formally known as the Western Distributor Project) to commence in early 2018, and that once completed, there would be 24/7 ‘bans’ on trucks on roads in the inner west of Melbourne.

CTAA director Neil Chambers said: “Not surprisingly, container transport operators in the inner and outer Western industrial suburbs undertake numerous truck trips to and from the Port of Melbourne during the day, at night and on weekends, to service vital container trade volumes through the biggest container port in Australia.”

“The original government business case called for Transurban to consider a reduced toll price for transport operators undertaking these shuttle operations, as well as suitable trip caps, and the favourable treatment of Higher Productivity Freight Vehicles.”

“With the government announcement that 24/7 truck bans will be applied to many inner western suburb roads once the West Gate Tunnel is completed, it is vital that the government ensures that container transport operators receive a “fair go” with the tolling structure and prices.”

“The container transport task to and from the West of Melbourne comprises full import and export containers, as well as empty container movements. Indeed, the largest export commodity through the Port of Melbourne is empty containers being repatriated overseas by shipping lines where they can best be used for their next full cargo.

“The movement of empty containers is therefore a vital part of the landside logistics chain, but the cost pressures in doing so are high, therefore a high toll price would be unsustainable,” Mr Chambers observed.

The government announcement on 24/7 truck bans does acknowledge that they do not apply to trucks with a local origin or destination.

“The use of the term ‘bans’ is emotive, and some residents and others might not appreciate that such curfews do have exemptions,” Mr Chambers said.

“There are numerous container logistics chain facilities located on the roads earmarked for 24/7 curfews. Trucks must still be allowed to access these facilities.”

Additionally, CTAA calls on the Government to undertake a review of the adequacy of the arterial and local road infrastructure in the inner west that will be subject to more heavy vehicle traffic once the 24/7 truck curfews are implemented.

“For example, the local and arterial roads at the western end of Francis Street in Yarraville, such as Cemetery Road, and around Brooklyn leading to and from Millers Road onto the West Gate Freeway (M1), are in very poor condition, and are not conductive to good heavy vehicle operations.

“The same applies to some roads in the outer west of Melbourne where the road infrastructure has not kept pace with industrial development,” Mr Chambers said.

At the eastern end of the proposed new West Gate Tunnel Project infrastructure, the container transport industry faces another dilemma.

The raised section of the project along Footscray Road does not connect directly to the Bolte Bridge for access to and from the new international container terminal at Webb Dock. Instead, heavily laden trucks will be funnelled onto an expanded Wurundjeri Way, then will need to transit Lorimer Street and Todd Road to access Webb Dock.

“Unlike today, where heavy vehicle container movements between Footscray Road and the Swanson Dock precinct of the Port and Webb Dock can be counted in the dozens per day, when the new Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) reaches higher throughput volumes (up to 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units – TEU – on current design specifications), there will be hundreds of heavy trucks on that route – night and day.

“The government’s announcements about truck bans in the inner west have been as a result of intense political pressure from local residents and others in the West. How long before similar voter pressures are applied by residents of million dollar plus apartments in the Lorimer Street, Docklands area, or elsewhere in the proposed new Fishermans Bend urban redevelopment?”

“What is the government doing to protect these vital freight corridors, or to find alternatives that better segregate freight movements from congested roads and residential developments?” Mr Chambers said.

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