WHILE both sides of state politics lambast each other about whether or not B-triples are safe enough to drive on the Hume Highway, Angus Taylor says the debate is a red herring.
The Liberal candidate for Hume, who has worked on several transport studies in his agribusiness career, has argued the federal government’s failure to embrace long-haul rail freight was the real issue.
The recently released NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan has revealed that High Productivity Vehicles (three carriage, 35m trucks) could be trialled on the Hume in early 2014, after completion of the Holbrook Bypass.
The move has sparked fierce criticism from the state opposition about not only safety but what would happen once the vehicles hit Sydney.
Locally, people who commute around the district are concerned about having to pass the mammoth prime-movers, which are more than seven car lengths long.
Both the government and the trucking industry have defended the proposal, saying the B-triples were state of the art vehicles with more safety features than B-doubles and that it would reduce the number of truck movements on the Hume by almost one million over the next 30 years.
However, Mr Taylor believes the debate is only necessary because of a “complete failure” of rail freight policy.
He argued the government should have adopted the Coalition’s 2010 election commitment to build an inland line from Melbourne to Brisbane.
At the time of announcing the policy, the 1700km line would have cost an estimated $4.7 billion, to be funded in partnership with the private sector.
The infrastructure would not only ease traffic congestion on highways but also drastically reduce freight delivery times, getting carriages to their final destination up to eight hours earlier.
Mr Taylor said the project could be delivered cheaply because much of the infrastructure already existed and was owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).
“I think the current federal government should have acted on this a long time ago and now it is time to get serious,” he said.
The Liberal Candidate for Hume said there was some concern among local truck drivers about the impact this type of move would have on their jobs but he believed there was enough growth in the industry to sustain employment. He has also met with a number of people within the industry to discuss the core issues.
“It’s not about putting truckies out of jobs, it’s about getting rail strategy sorted out…” he said.
“Long haul rail is a fantastic investment for the future. Every country in the world is pushing in this direction for a reason.”
Mr Taylor said the line would create jobs, increase road safety through a reduction in vehicle congestion and significantly reduce carbon admissions. The other big advantage would be for the wheat growers in the state’s central west.
“The inland rail (would also) go right through the middle of the wheat belt, which would solve a big problem in transporting wheat, which is increasingly going by truck.”
When asked, Mayor Geoff Kettle said he wasn’t opposed to the move to put Btriples on the Hume Highway.
While he obviously wants to put as much emphasis on rail as he can, even organising a transport forum in Goulburn on February 14, he believed if the vehicles were driven properly and in a safe manner they wouldn’t pose a threat to other road users.
He disagreed with calls from the state’s opposition however to force the vehicles to drive slower, at 80km/h, saying that could in itself lead to safety issues.