Completing the North East Link to connect the Metropolitan Ring Road with East Link should be Victoria’s top infrastructure priority, ahead of a congestion tax.
RACV General Manager for Public Policy, Brian Negus said the North East Link was critical for reducing congestion and connecting arterial roads. It needs to be delivered within 10 years, and planning should be underway.
Mr Negus was commenting on Infrastructure Victoria’s proposals for the city’s road network released in October. The plan included a two-tier congestion tax (with one ring around the inner suburbs and a second around the central business district), the North East Link to be completed within 15 years and a rail line to Melbourne Airport.
Congestion tax not wanted (yet)
Mr Negus said Infrastructure Victoria’s proposal for a congestion tax is a misplaced priority because it would be unfair without improvements to public transport and major new road projects to offer commuters an alternative to using their cars, and new ways around the city area.
“They are saying let’s try reducing congestion by forcing people out of their cars with a congestion tax. That’s not the way to go,” Mr Negus said. A congestion tax should only be part of a thorough reform of the taxes and fees that motorists pay, he said, and it should only be introduced once major projects such as the North East Link and the Metro Rail Tunnel were in place.
Structure a fair system
“It’s unfair to add a congestion tax on top of existing fees and charges including registration, fuel excise and GST, and import and sales duties. A properly structured and fair system would charge motorists for the weight of the vehicle, the distance travelled, location and contribution to congestion, but only with the removal of fuel excise, GST and the other fixed taxes.
“There is no link between the revenue from the existing taxes and spending on roads and public transport. The funds from a reformed road user pricing system must be committed to road and public transport projects.”
RACV believes many improvements are needed to urban transport including upgrading the airport Skybus service, better arterial roads in outer Melbourne accompanied by enhanced Smart Bus and outer suburban bus services to provide the connections people need.
The detail of how to configure the congestion tax should be part of a comprehensive review and involve widespread consultation with the community.
Published in RoyalAuto Nov 2016