Improving freight safety and efficiency will be key considerations in the development of the next National Land Transport Programme.
The NZ Transport Agency is currently working with the transport sector to develop the 2015-18 National Land Transport Programme. The first step in this process is working with the regional transport committees; I personally sat in on submissions from the freight sector to the Waikato Regional Transport Committee and was impressed at the wider economic and safety concerns expressed. The completed regional plans form the basis of the Transport Agency programme to invest around $12 billion from the National Land Transport Fund in maintaining, renewing and improving New Zealand’s land transport system.
The next three-year investment programme will be the culmination of much of the Transport Agency’s work over the last few years to identify where the best investments are for the limited amount of money we have. While the money available is significant, we are also conscious that these funds have been raised from road users - through fuel excise on petrol vehicles, motor vehicle registrations and road user charges. A significant amount of money also comes from ratepayers for activities co-invested through the programme like local roads and public transport. The programme will seek to get the best value for money for New Zealand through these investments in our transport system. This will include making sure we invest in the network in a way that reflects its use and contribution to the New Zealand’s economy and social wellbeing.
The needs of improving freight safety and efficiency has a considerable role shaping our investment choices. Part of the thinking behind our investment approach has been influenced by the work we have had underway in our freight planning with local government and industry. These discussions together with our analysis identify both specific investment options, as well as key priority areas – such as growing 50MAX network access and developing the 58-tonne High Productivity Freight Network where it is economic to do so.
We know from our work that the more efficient New Zealand’s freight system is, the more this reduces the cost of moving goods – which makes our economy more competitive. Improving the competitiveness of the economy will grow our country’s wealth, create jobs and lift our standard of living. This is why growing the value of New Zealand’s export trade is an important Government policy objective. As such there is likely be a continued focus on investment in our strategic freight network to improve access to international and domestic markets. This will mean better connecting our regions, improving access to major ports and moving freight across our major cities will be significant considerations.
The freight task is substantial and we know it is also growing, by around 50-60% over the next thirty years, and in some places, like Auckland, by between 60-70%. Population growth and increasing car travel in some areas will also put pressure on some of the network. This may require investment in the road network and also in alternative transport choices to manage demand. Along with providing efficient journeys, our industry engagement also emphasises the increasing importance of improving journey predictability on key freight routes. Being able to predict journey time and knowing how many trips you can make in a day are important concerns for those moving freight.
To ensure a more level playing field for industry and to protect our road network from damage, we will also be looking at investing in more automated weigh devices. These devices, which are part of our Weigh Right initiative, will be used to help identify those vehicles operating illegally over weight and also those not paying the correct road user charge for that vehicle type. One of our objectives for this work is to allow for more high productivity access on the network through reduced illegal overloading of trucks, which are less safe and can damage roads and bridges. Another objective is to be able to better identify those vehicles operating at the correct load limits, in order to allow them to continue on their journey while more attention is given to those who may warrant it.
We also know that freight movements should be safe and we need to invest in some parts of the network to address known areas of high risk. This is something that is really important to me in as Regional Director for the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. While I recognise the importance of moving freight for the wellbeing of our country, I do not believe death and serious injury are legitimate costs of moving freight. Given the high volumes and economic value of freight moving through the Waikato, together with our proximity to New Zealand’s largest ports – we need our most important highways and rail networks to move this freight as efficiently and safely as possible.
So as you can see this programme is likely to have a lot in it. More specific detail will become available over the next few months – as those who pay into the national fund, I am sure you will appreciate knowing how this money is being spent.
NZ Transport Agency Freight Portfolio Director