Infrastructure Victoria’s congestion tax for Melbourne CBD is not the way to go

Source: Herald Sun

A CAR congestion tax, including inner-city suburbs as well as the CBD, is guaranteed to destroy business and shopping, turning the city into a no-go zone.

Drivers who have no alternative in crossing the city would be the victims of heavy price gouging. The taxes could range from $2 to $3 a trip, depending on how close drivers come to the CBD.

Such a regressive tax would achieve nothing except to further frustrate motorists and commercial vehicle operators. The tax would strangle the city, not open it to commerce, as people turn to outer-suburban shopping centres; much to the cost of major retailers, such as Myer and David Jones.

The Infrastructure Victoria proposal would be a disaster for a city already being strangled by Premier Daniel Andrews’s decision to tear up the contracts on the East West road-and-tunnel link that would have prevented the traffic chaos caused by cars turning off the Eastern Freeway where it meets Hoddle St.

Ironically, Infrastructure Victoria was created by the Andrews Government to “take short-term politics out of infrastructure planning’’. That hasn’t worked. He must reject what are the recommendations of his brainchild.

Instead of proposing a tax that will become an impost on business as it drives motorists away, the government must open new arteries across the city.

Not only must the abandoned East West Link be revived, the government must look towards a North East Link to connect the metropolitan freeway and tollway systems and a completed ring road around Melbourne.

The Infrastructure Victoria plan, with its key proposals over the next 30 years, suggests offloading the costs to taxpayers when there are other ways to achieve access to a metropolis of the future.

One of the reasons for a new pricing regime is the cost of future mega projects. The East West Link, which has already seen $1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money wasted on payments to contractors, has had a cascading economic effect, leaving Premier Andrews struggling to find an alternative to the second stage of the multi-billion-dollar project that would have eased congestion on the West Gate Bridge with a second Yarra River crossing.

Premier Andrews ‘has already had the best day of his troubled two years’.

A $5.5 billion proposal by CityLink operator Transurban comes at a cost of extending extend tolls on the system for at least a decade, as well as leaving the government about $2 billion short. Premier Andrews insists he has the money for this and the $10.9 billion Metro rail project running under Swanston St and the Yarra with five new stations.

The cost has been spread over future Budgets, but what the government has failed to take into account is the cost blowouts in projects of this magnitude. Construction on the Metro project starts in 2018 but does not finish until 2026.

The call for a wideranging and costly congestion tax can be seen as a recognition that money is likely to run out and motorists and commercial operators left to carry the burden.

Premier Andrews has already had the best day of his troubled two years in government with the windfall of $4.5 billion to $5 billion on the 50-year lease of the Port of Melbourne.

The $6 billion that was expected to come from the Port of Melbourne lease was to be spent exclusively on the removal of the state’s 50 worst level crossings; however, the government has already admitted to a potential blowout of $1 billion.

The government has not been helped by being short-changed by the Turnbull Government under its asset recycling program. Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says the program has closed and Victoria will get only $877 million, not the $1.4 billion it should receive after Mr Andrews promised the extra money from the Port of Melbourne lease would be spent only on transport infrastructure projects.

But flagging massive regressive taxes on motorists is unacceptable and may bankrupt some city businesses and turn metropolitan Melbourne into a beleaguered fortress city.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison says the asset-recycling program has closed.


CAR-hating Greens have come up with a new tactic. The Greens are speeding up their campaign against cars by slowing them down, in policies being taken to the Melbourne City Council elections.

Greens may wear suits but they are the tree huggers of old. Their war against cars, if it is to succeed, will drive business as well as cars out of the CBD. A speed limit of 30km/h and a congestion tax will destroy business, coupled with bike lanes along St Kilda Rd to the south of the city and Royal Parade to the north.

Turning cars into a niche mode of transport and the CBD into a carless precinct is the Greens’ destructive aim. The 30km/h speed limit is the latest front in their anti-car strategy and includes a congestion tax to make it financially unviable to do business in the city.

Motorists will avoid the CBD, taking their business and their custom to outer suburbs and leaving the city to pedestrians and cyclists.

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