The Victorian Government has recognised a crucial need to upgrade roads and transport infrastructure to cater for a growing forestry and timber industry, including the introduction of high productivity freight vehicles. According to Government details, an estimated additional 138,000 semi-trailers (equivalent to 93,000 B-doubles) are expected to join the annual current estimated 90,000 truck movements into the Port of Portland alone.
Improvements to the freight system were included in the Victorian Timber Industry Strategy (VTIS) announced late in December.
According to the Government, Freight Futures is the long-term strategy for an efficient and sustainable freight network for Victoria. Freight Futures recognises that plantation timber harvests in coming years will pose freight challenges to some Victorian regions, particularly in south-west Victoria, northern Victoria and Gippsland.
Through the Victorian Transport Plan and Freight Futures, the Victorian Government is supporting the development of Freight Action Plans for regions facing specific freight challenges. The plans maximise the ability of key regional areas to respond to commodity growth.
The Victorian and South Australian Governments and respective Local Governments, in partnership with industry, have developed the first of these plans – the Green Triangle Region Freight Action Plan. This plan addresses the anticipated increased infrastructure use by harvest and haulage vehicles in the State’s south-west.
The plan outlines actions in six areas to manage the region’s growing freight task. These areas cover improvement to road and rail networks, regulatory reform, job opportunities, skills and training, and socio-economic and community development.
As an example of the growing timber industry freight task in the region, an estimated additional 138,000 semi-trailers (equivalent to 93,000 B-doubles) are expected to join the annual current estimated 90,000 truck movements into the Port of Portland.
The Green Triangle Region Freight Action Plan investigates options for the rail sector to assist in the movement of woodchips and pulp products. In July 2008, Victorian Premier John Brumby announced that the Portland-Maroona (near Ararat) rail line would be upgraded and incorporated into the national rail network managed by the Australian Rail Track Corporation. A $15 million upgrade to the rail line by the Australian Rail Track Corporation will help provide an improved rail network for the movement of woodchips and timber from the Green Triangle region, as well as other export growth commodities including mineral sands and grain.
The plan recognises much of the freight task will be managed by trucks. In September 2009, the Victorian Government committed $5 million towards upgrades on the Henty Highway and Princes Highway between Hamilton and Portland, paving the way for a High Productivity Freight Vehicle trial on these roads. The trial will keep High Productivity Freight Vehicles on selected key routes to considerably reduce the number of freight vehicles required to perform the region’s growing freight task, leading to less impact on communities and the environment, and better safety outcomes.
The plan includes a commitment to invest in infrastructure upgrades in the Green Triangle region, subject to Australian Government funding contributions. In May 2009, Infrastructure Australia included the Green Triangle Road and Rail Upgrades project on a list of 28 ‘pipeline’ projects for future funding consideration. The Victorian Government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth to secure funding for this project.
The Green Triangle region is one of a number of regions experiencing freight challenges, and the Victorian Government will consider the preparation of Freight Action Plans in other regions in consultation with Local Government and industry. As an example, in Freight Futures, the Government announced a Freight Action Plan would be developed for Gippsland, and that this would assess the future freight task for key industries, including timber.
Strategic land-use plans are also being developed for all of Victoria’s ports for efficient operation. These plans will guide sustainable, managed development and investment over the next 20 years and minimise adverse impacts on local communities and the environment. In particular, the Government-owned Port of Hastings has been identified as increasingly important for commercial shipping over the next 20 to 30 years as the Port of Melbourne reaches capacity.
In line with the Victorian Transport Plan and Port Futures, the Government will continue to plan for the development of the port facilities and transport access freight corridors at the Port of Hastings, which will improve its position for the export of woodchips out of the Gippsland region.
The Victorian Government will also continue to develop the Port of Hastings with the Australian Government through Infrastructure Australia. In May 2009, Infrastructure Australia included the Port of Hastings development project on the list of 28 ‘pipeline’ projects for future funding consideration.