NTC chief calls for light vehicle pricing reform

By: Graham Gardiner


National Transport Commission (NTC) Chief Executive Nick Dimopoulos today called for a healthy and informed policy debate to build the

National Transport Commission (NTC) Chief Executive Nick Dimopoulos today called for a healthy and informed policy debate to build the momentum for reform of light vehicle pricing and public transport use.

In an address to the Bus Industry Confederation Conference on the Gold Coast, Dimopoulos said now is the right time for Australia to explore broad road pricing options through an independent inquiry.

"Charging a higher tariff at busy times is widely used for airline ticketing, mobile phone calls and going to the cinema. And it’s much easier to change prices to influence demand, than build new infrastructure," he says.

"Put simply, we’ve got to do better with what (infrastructure) we already have."

According to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, the absence of measures to unclog urban roads will restrict the mobility of people and freight and cost the economy a forecast $20 billion a year by 2020.

"It’s about getting the system right so you can make informed personal choices about transport alternatives, and what’s important to you, without shifting the cost of your decisions onto others," Dimopoulos says.

"Transport for London estimate that the London congestion charge reduced car travel by 15 percent; and more than half moved to public transport. Most of the revenue funded additional bus services – an integrated approach to ensure traffic isn’t simply pushed elsewhere.

"But it will be tough, politically, to deny people the right to drive cars at peak hours on congested roads at no extra cost.

"In the UK, 1.8 million citizens signed an anti-road charging scheme petition, forcing the government to put its pricing reform plans on ice.

"Instead, the UK is tackling congestion by opening up the emergency lanes on major motorways.

"Clearly, effective measures are not popular and popular measures are not effective.

"NTC believes now is the right time for Australia to have an informed and mature debate on broad road pricing options through an independent inquiry."

NTC and governments have listened to calls from the bus industry for an integrated National Transport Policy across all modes – passenger and freight – to address emerging transport challenges.

Dimopoulos says the next logical step – a national public transport policy, as part of the National Transport Policy – could encourage governments to better integrate transport services and commit to minimum public transport service standards.

"NTC would like more work done in this area, including learning from overseas experiences," he adds.

Better integrated land-use planning policies across all levels of governments, he says, are also needed to encourage high-density building development on selected corridors, while increasing public transport infrastructure capacity.

Dimopoulos calls on governments to put the foot down hard on the national transport reform pedal.

"As economic growth in Australia slows, the case for game-changing reform to lift the national economy becomes even more compelling," he says.

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