BIC rejects tieing incremental road pricing to IAP

By: Chris Smith

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) has rejected the notion that incremental road pricing should be tied to the Intelligent Access

The Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) has rejected the notion that incremental road pricing should be tied to the Intelligent Access Program (IAP), as recommended in a feasibility study released this week by the National Transport Commission.

BIC Executive Director Michael Apps says buses and coaches should be treated differently to other supply chain and transport movements and apply incremental pricing without the need for IAP.

"The study asks whether different options are better suited to different supply chains and transport movements," he says.

"This has to be the case. Buses and coaches should be totally independent from any arrangements for trucks and freight."

Apps says the suggestion that the application of IAP may be a prerequisite of the incremental pricing program is not supported by BIC.

"Surely the existing permit system and existing enforcement can manage this – rather than imposing an extra cost on industry," he says.

"Why would buses adopt IAP when they operate on set routes a majority of the time?"

Apps warns the feasibility study has a strong focus on increased road and bridge wear and a strong hint of road and bridge engineers hijacking the program and limiting possible productivity and efficiency benefits using the same old arguments as they did with the mass limit review, a review he says the industry is still waiting for.

"If you pay for the increased mass and therefore the increased road wear, what’s the problem?" he asks.

"Yes there are some roads and bridges that may need upgrading. What’s new? We know from the mass limits review where they are. How about getting on with the job and fixing them.

"The fact that incremental trials have still not taken place despite the urging and support of Industry is very disappointing."

Apps says a trial of buses to allow them to operate at increased mass would highlight the fact that there will be no increased road damage than is currently occurring because the buses are already forced to operate illegally a small percentage of time when they are full (but not exceeding passenger capacity) as a result of the artificial mass limits applied to buses in Australia.

"This should be tested as part of a trial to determine the proportion of time that a bus will be over mass (up to 18 tonne for two-axle buses) so the incremental charge reflects this," suggests Apps.

He says BIC will be submitting a response to the NTC feasibility study.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has outlined a plan for the development of an incremental pricing scheme, should it prove to be feasible.

This plan is part of a broad reform agenda for road infrastructure pricing and investment.

This reform plan is well aligned with the objectives and principles in the new National Transport Policy Framework approved by Transport Ministers in 2008, which forms the basis for the next wave of national transport reform.

An incremental pricing scheme, if feasible, will establish a base mass limit which reflects what operators pay for under the current charging scheme.

Operators would then be charged an additional amount based on the extra road wear caused by carrying mass above the base mass limit.

Public comment on the feasibility study is sought until February 27, 2009.

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