The rail industry is set to pressure the Australian Parliament to pass the much-debated heavy vehicle charges reform bill, in a bid to redirect freight from road to rail.
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has called on its members to make submissions to the senate inquiry into interstate road transport charges by November 10.
The reform proposes to lift road charges for trucks to 21 cents per litre of diesel from 1 January 2009. The bill was introduced into parliament in September, and is now before the senate committee for report by November 21.
The trucking industry, along with the Opposition, attacked the scheme, saying the automatic indexation scheme was “a tax by stealth” and it should include provisions for 500 extra rest stop areas on the national road network.
The ARA argued the bill should be passed as it would ensure proper transport pricing for effective infrastructure use and transport system optimisation.
It said currently trucks underpaid an estimated $168 million per annum and the cost of road damage was paid by taxpayers.
“Continued undercharging of road transport attracts freight to road resulting in more trucks on major highways and less freight on safer and more environmentally efficient rail transport,” the ARA said.
“Undercharging means that everyone pays more through other taxation.”
It added the Productivity Commission’s independently audit found the proposed charges were ‘conservative’ compared to international practice.
The ARA said it also favoured mass-distance location charging as part of future reform, as recommended by the Productivity Commission, the National Transport Commission and the Australian Transport Council.
Submissions can be made at www.railmates.com.au.