Road action, not study, needed

Road action, not further studies, needed for the central Murray

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ROADS STUDY: Ports and Freight Minister Melissa Horne says the study is an essential first step to improving the freight network for local farmers and industry.

ROADS STUDY: Ports and Freight Minister Melissa Horne says the study is an essential first step to improving the freight network for local farmers and industry.

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State government study to look at HPFV access in Swan Hill, Ganawarra.

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Farmers and transport operators say action, rather than another study, is needed to address road and rail problems in the central Murray.

The state government has announced a $75,000 study to identify infrastructure constraints and develop a plan to enhance High Productivity Freight Vehicle access in the Swan Hill and Ganawarra shires.

The Department of Transport will work with Swan Hill Rural City Council and Gannawarra Shire Council, with the government contributing $50,000 to the project.

"We'll work with the local councils to establish a stronger and safer HPFV network by identifying works that need doing across the Swan Hill and Gannawarra region," Ports and Freight Minister Melissa Horne said.

"Road freight plays a vital role in transporting Victorian exports such as fruit, grain and other agricultural products, and this work will cut costs for farmers and freight operators, delivering better outcomes to local communities."

She said the study was an essential first step to improving the freight network for local farmers and industry.

It would provide strong evidence for further investments required to expand HPFV access, restricted by load limits.

The investment complements the 3,000 kilometres of arterial roads added to Victoria's pre-approved HPFV network earlier in June.

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Earlier studies

But Manangatang grain grower Chris Plant said while farmers welcomed the funding, they questioned whether the Department of Transport would look at studies that had already been completed.

She said the Central Murray Regional Transport Strategy was released in 2019.

"There is no vision shown here - we need an overall state freight strategy, the big picture, that addresses both road and rail freight infrastructure for the next 20-50 years, not a piecemeal approach," Ms Plant said.

"Road and rail should complement each other and funding needs to be allocated so that both methods are fit for purpose."

She said the 'last mile" was of concern, with some councils slow to gazette roads for B-Double trucks, let alone HPFVs.

"They will need funding to get some of these roads up to scratch," Ms Plant said.

"How long will study take and when will funding be allocated to address restrictions identified in the report?

"How will environment issues in particular truck emissions be addressed?"

She said the government also needed to provide further funding for upgrades to the Sea Lake and Manangatang rail lines, to remove speed restrictions.

Bureaucratic hold up

Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said the problem appeared to lie with departmental bureaucrats.

"It's the process - they are so scared about making a decision, about anything," Mr Anderson said.

"What they want to do is have a study, on a study, on a study, to make sure they make the right decision."

Mr Anderson said there had to be a "degree of authenticity" about planning.

"It can't be off-the-hip and it can't be just full of anecdotes, we have to get serious about creating some technical information.

"But really what we want are decisions, from that information."

Mr Anderson said the government needed to address real problems, and find solutions.

"That's where the government struggles," he said.

"This isn't about attacking a politician, this isn't about Melissa Horne, she is just the one who has to stand up and announce it.

"I can only say thank you, to the minister, for giving us some money - but make a decision," he said.

And Manangatang grain grower and transport operator Leeton Ryan, Ryan Logistics, said the study should have been done many years ago.

"Victoria is a long way behind the other states," Mr Ryan said.

The biggest issue was weight constraints, on bridges.

"Swan Hill is really behind, you look at Mildura and they are really good with road train access, they are exceptional.

"If you look at a map, once you hit the Swan Hill shire access really peters out."

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