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A beacon of hope to fix congestion in Melbourne’s north-eastern corridor

As the backbone of Victoria’s and the nation’s economy, the transport industry plays a pivotal role in facilitating trade, connecting communities, and driving economic growth. 

However, to sustain this vital role and meet the evolving needs of our state, significant investment in transport infrastructure is imperative. 

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) staunchly advocated for robust funding allocations in both the 2024-25 Victorian and federal budgets to address the pressing infrastructure challenges faced by our transport network and supports allocations from both jurisdictions.

In the face of burgeoning population growth and increasing urbanisation, congestion has become a major bottleneck hampering productivity and hindering the efficient movement of goods and people. 

The North East Link project stands as a beacon of hope to alleviate congestion woes in Melbourne’s north-eastern corridor, one of the most congested and economically vital areas in the state. 

With the Commonwealth’s allocation of $3.2 billion for this transformative project, the VTA applauds federal commitment to enhancing connectivity and unlocking economic potential.

The North East Link is not merely a road project; it is a catalyst for economic prosperity, job creation, and improved liveability. By seamlessly linking the Eastern Freeway to the M80 Ring Road, this project will significantly reduce travel times, enhance freight efficiency, and alleviate pressure on existing arterial routes. 

The associated direct and indirect job creation during construction and the long-term economic benefits stemming from improved connectivity underscore the project’s significance in driving Victoria’s post-pandemic recovery.

Beyond the North East Link, the VTA advocated for a comprehensive approach to transport infrastructure investment that addresses both road and rail networks. Rail freight plays a crucial role in transporting goods across Victoria and beyond, yet aging infrastructure and capacity constraints pose significant challenges. 

Therefore, investments in rail freight infrastructure are paramount to unlocking the full potential of Victoria’s freight industry, enhancing supply chain efficiency, and reducing road congestion. 

This needn’t be to the detriment of road freight operators because as I’ve stated many times, trains and ships carry freight but only trucks deliver.

Furthermore, the VTA urges the prioritisation of regional transport infrastructure projects to support economic development outside metropolitan areas. Adequate funding for regional road upgrades, rail connectivity, and freight hubs is essential to bolster regional economies, connect regional communities, and foster social inclusion. 

Neglecting regional infrastructure investment not only stifles growth in these areas but also exacerbates disparities between urban and regional areas.

In addition to addressing immediate infrastructure needs, the VTA emphasises the importance of future-proofing our transport network against emerging challenges such as climate change and technological advancements. 

Sustainable transport solutions, including investment in hydrogen and electric vehicle charging infrastructure and public transport, are essential to reducing emissions, mitigating environmental impact, and enhancing the resilience of our transport system.

Embracing innovation and leveraging emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and smart traffic management systems can revolutionise the efficiency and safety of our transport network. However, realising the full potential of these technologies requires strategic investments in research, development, and infrastructure deployment.

Critics may argue against increased infrastructure spending, citing budgetary constraints or competing priorities. However, the VTA firmly believes that investment in transport infrastructure is not a mere expenditure but rather a strategic investment in the nation’s future prosperity. 

The returns on these investments, in terms of economic growth, job creation, and improved quality of life, far outweigh the upfront costs.

The VTA urges both the Victorian and federal governments to prioritise transport and infrastructure investments in their delivery of these and future budgets.

The allocation of $3.2 billion for the North East Link is a commendable step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to address the multifaceted challenges facing our transport network.

By investing in strategic transport infrastructure projects, we can unlock economic potential, improve connectivity, and drive Victoria and Australia towards a brighter and more prosperous future.

Peter Anderson is the CEO of the Victorian Transport Association.

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