Improvements to rural roads will be essential as the NSW Government works toward its Future Transport 2056 initiative, according to local transport operator Kelvin Baxter.
Mr Baxter cautiously welcomed the state government’s initiative which will aim to improve the connectivity between major cities and rural towns.
He said while it hints at major benefits for transport operators, there are some significant aspects missing and the increased focus on rail freight could also impact on local businesses.
The 40-year draft plan includes more than 160 projects across regional NSW including highway upgrades, passenger rail improvements and initiatives to accommodate the arrival of automated technologies.
Riverina specific projects already included in the draft plan include lane widening and flood mitigation works on the Sturt and Newell Highways, as well as the proposal to re-open the Tocumwal-Narrandera freight line.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro previously allocated funding to complete a feasibility study on the proposal.
Mr Baxter said Future Transport 2056 sounds like a ‘‘refreshing and positive’’ plan, but he flagged some concerns with the content.
‘‘There’s no mention of better access for higher productivity vehicles such as type one road trains and B triples, or of uniform higher max limit networks,’’ Mr Baxter said.
‘‘Higher max limit networks also need to be linked to the sale yards or feed mills.
‘‘At the moment each council area has separate standards and higher max limits, so to get to Wagga I have to go through Jerilderie and Narrandera when it would be much easier to go through Urana and Lockhart.
‘‘As for the rail feasibility study, I believe it should be in the context of an inland rail line through the Goulburn Valley, Murray Valley and Murrumbidgee Valley, as there isn’t a functioning train line in those areas.’’
Mr Baxter has also called on the government to look at increasing highway speed limits as part of the plan.
He said an increased limit of 100km/h is successfully managed on the Newell Highway, and should be extended to other major transport routes including the Riverina Highway.
Parliamentary Secretary for Southern NSW Bronnie Taylor said Future Transport 2056’s aim is to look at better regional interconnectivity between Riverina cities and ways in which outer lying communities can access larger centres easily and more frequently.
The plan will include the continuation of existing programs like Bridges for the Bush, Fixing Country Roads and Fixing Country Rail. There also will be a focus on level crossing upgrades, upgrading regional airstrips and a statewide rollout of On-Demand Transport.
Future Transport 2056 is available for public feedback until December 3, 2017, at www.future.transport.nsw.gov.au.