Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 3 Number 2 Contents futurebuilding 31
Volume 3 Number 2
A number of road pricing options have been
tried and tested, with varied results, in cities such as
London, Singapore, Stockholm and in Sydney, with
peak-hour tolling on the harbour crossings, which
was introduced by the previous government.
Before we get to implementation, though, we
have to ask: What would network pricing be aiming to
achieve? Is it designed to generate funding for future
transport infrastructure? Or is it about managing
demand? Or, potentially worse, could it be used for
short-term revenue raising?
Whatever form network pricing takes, public
transport must be part of the equation. Just as some
drivers may choose to avoid peak periods, others
might avoid using the car altogether.
This would be a great result for our cities, but it is
only possible with real choice provided by extensive
public transport. On this front, cities such as London
and Singapore are well ahead of our major Australian
We also need to guard against a system that
becomes a form of regressive tax. That is, it could
transfer the greatest burden to those who live in the
outer suburbs or fringes of our cities; those who may
be the least able to afford it.
Any network pricing scheme has to look
at the whole transport network to ensure a
functioning system and fairness of options for
the travelling public.
Finally, any network pricing scheme would
have to consider the needs of many stakeholders
across the total transport networks. If we look at
the Sydney scenario again, there are a number of
concessions in place with the private sector that
make this problematic.
These are fundamental -- and fairly complex --
issues that would need to be resolved before we can
go down a fully integrated network pricing path.
So is there a perfect system? No, obviously not.
However, we need to be pragmatic and get on with
what we can do now in order to provide meaningful
progress against transport congestion.
Besides, what we plan and know today will
inevitably evolve into some other form in the future,
with the changing of technology and demographics.
Right now, however, governments can take
measures to provide exibility in new concessions
to account for forecast changes in the pricing and
demand management landscape.
This would allow for options such as peak and off-
peak pricing to be introduced over time to maximise
infrastructure use. These provisions -- like most others
-- can be priced and managed by the private sector.
Getting moving now on infrastructure also means
looking at innovative solutions to manage demand.
We can make more of our existing road space -- and
this needs to be part of the discussion.
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