Black Spot, Roads to Recovery programs extended

<b><font color=red>BUDGET</font></b>: Government commits to road safety programs and stumps up cash to fund national regulations

By Brad Gardner | May 9, 2012

Vital road safety programs have been handed a five-year lifeline in the Federal Budget, while funds will also be committed to getting the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator off the ground.

In handing down the budget yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan pledged an extra $300 million to the Black Spots Program over five years from 2014-15.

The government will spend $60 million annually under the scheme, which funds road projects in dangerous locations to prevent traffic accidents.

Likewise, the Roads to Recovery Program will run for five more years from 2014-15. However, the government will commit $350 million annually, capping its commitment at $1.75 billion.

"Under the program, funding is distributed to Australia’s local councils, state and territory governments responsible for local roads in areas where there are no councils," Budget papers say.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the new round of funding for the Black Spots Program is expected to prevent more than 2000 accidents and 14 deaths each year.

He says the $300 million investment will deliver 1200 projects and build on the $500 million the government has previously spent.

"Projects funded, as well as measures taken, are recommended by a panel of independent road safety experts. An important aspect of the program is that anyone can nominate a section of road they believe should be considered for a safety upgrade," a statement from Albanese says.

The budget also allocates another $37.9 million over three years to support the establishment of national regulators for the road, rail and maritime industries.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, to be based in Brisbane, will receive $15.6 million. The regulator will be responsible for registration and regulations applying to trucks and buses over 4.5 tonnes.

"The transport industry is the cornerstone of the Australian economy without which our supermarket shelves would quickly empty and much of our exports would remain in the ground, on the farm or at the factory," Albanese says.

"Soon they will have the common-sense laws and regulations which will support rather than hinder the efforts of operators to grow their business and make a decent living."

The budget has also set aside $3.56 billion to complete the duplication of the Pacific Highway by the end of 2016. However, the funding will only be unlocked if the NSW Government agrees to match it.

Forward estimates show funds will not be made available until at least 2013-14. Even then the money will be limited $231 million. A further $1 billion will be made available in 2014-15, followed by $1.4 billion in the 2015-16 financial year. The remainder of the funds would be made available from July 2016.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss claims the duplication cannot be completed by the government’s stated deadline.

"The new money kicks in from 2014-15, 15-16 and, staggeringly, 16-17, well beyond the term of the current Nation Building Program. It means Labor’s promise to complete the Pacific Highway by 2016 is in tatters. It won’t be finished on time," Truss says.

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