Yolanda Redrup, 30 September 2015

State governments need to start creating their own road pricing systems before transport infrastructure reaches a crisis point, according to Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton.

Road pricing models could be designed around users paying a specified amount for the distance they drive, or per trip, and flexibly priced express lanes on the most congested roads, Mr Charlton said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia lunch on Wednesday.

“In Australia, road pricing and funding interacts with all three levels of government and unanimous agreement to achieve a nationally consistent approach will always be difficult,” he said.

“We may need to look at other pathways such as the creation of a workable framework at a federal level to give state governments the opportunity and financial support to develop their own road pricing systems.”

Infrastructure giant Transurban has begun testing alternative user pays systems, looking at a one-off charge based on the number of anticipated kilometres, a price per trip charge and access charges.

The study is aiming to determine which form of pricing is most appealing to road users. It’s also testing time-of-day pricing and congestion charges for entering the city.

Opt-in system

Mr Charlton said the federal government could implement an opt-in system that lifts the fuel excise, raising enough money for the states to be able to develop their own road pricing system.

“It would foster an environment of competition between the states, increasing the pace with which we find a best practice solution,” he said.

“We in the industry sector need to take a leadership role in developing the principles of a user pays system and help bring the community on the journey.”

Traffic congestion is estimated to be costing Australia $15 billion a year and this is predicted to triple in the next 15 years, according to Transurban.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2014-15 ranked the quality of Australia roads 43rd in the world, behind countries such as Swaziland and Barbados and only a few spots ahead of Rwanda.

Earlier this year Transurban proposed an altered, cheaper, $5.5 billion version of the second part of the East West Link to the Victorian government designed to get trucks off the road.

Extracted in full from the Age.