LIVESTOCK and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria (LRTAV) are absolutely furious that they were not consulted or considered during the planning phase of the West Gate Tunnel Project.
Consequently, while the Victorian Government taut the benefits of removing around 9000 trucks from residential streets surrounding the Port of Melbourne, livestock transports will be unable to access the new route due to height restrictions.
The height of a B-double transport is 4.6 metres high.
When questioned about the use of the tunnel by the LRTAV on behalf of livestock transporters, they were told that to access the tunnel the trucks would need to be tarped or the top deck had to remain empty in order to safely traverse the tunnel, to stop animals hitting the tunnel signage.
Question: What livestock transporter can afford to run a B-double transport with the top deck empty and still make that voyage viable?
Now to put this in perspective, and to understand the significance of our agriculture sector to the Victorian coffers – Agriculture Victoria figures show that ‘food and fibre exports play a big role in the Victorian economy, making up about 51 per cent of the value of total goods exports’.
‘Victoria is Australia’s largest state exporter of food and fibre products, accounting for 27 per cent of Australian food and fibre exports in 2018-19.
‘The most valuable food and fibre exports from Victoria were meat ($4.1 billion), animal fibre ($2.1 billion) and dairy ($1.9 billion).
‘China, Japan, USA, New Zealand and Malaysia were the most valuable markets for Victorian food and fibre exports in 2018-19, accounting for 60 per cent of Victoria’s food and fibre exports.
‘China is the primary market for food and fibre exports from Victoria, worth $4.7 billion to the state, while the largest export growth of $268 million (up 28 per cent) was to the USA.’
So, while the government has been keen to convey the benefits of this new West Gate Tunnel Project, they have failed to plan for use by all transport sectors – in particular, the agricultural sector that provides more than a quarter of Australia’s export income.
According to a West Gate Tunnel Project spokesperson - the West Gate Tunnel Project is designed to relieve traffic on the Monash Freeway, CityLink and West Gate Freeway, and reduce the city’s reliance on the West Gate Bridge.
It will also provide a direct freight link to the Port of Melbourne.
The project will provide tunnels under Yarraville in Melbourne’s inner-west and an elevated motorway connecting the West Gate Freeway with the Port of Melbourne, CityLink and the western edge of the central city, delivering an alternate river crossing to the West Gate Bridge.
There will be two tunnels - one inbound (2.8 kilometres long) and one outbound (4km long), catering for three lanes of traffic in each direction.
The tunnels will extend from two separate southern portals located along the West Gate Freeway to a northern portal located west of the Maribyrnong River in Footscray.
The tunnels will have a minimum vertical clearance of 4.9m, with an additional 0.2m to protect internal fixtures such as lighting and signage from loose loads, ropes and flapping tarpaulins.
This makes the total height 5.1m but vehicles will be limited to 4.9m.
The speed limit in the tunnels will be 80 km/h.
B-double and B-triple livestock trucks will be encouraged to avoid travelling in the tunnels unless the top deck of the trailers are empty or enclosed.
This is because of the danger posed when cattle or sheep jump up and cause the vehicle and its load to exceed the tunnel height limit of 4.9m.
Exceeding the tunnel height limit can cause overhead signs and other fixtures to drop onto the road, creating hazards for other road users.
Additionally, livestock may be injured or killed.
Vehicles carrying dangerous goods (as defined in the Dangerous Goods Act 1985) will be banned from using the tunnels.
A government spokesperson said, “the West Gate Tunnel Project is one of the biggest road projects in Victoria’s history and its positive impact will be felt well beyond Melbourne, with rural transport operators to benefit from smoother, safer journeys”.
“The route from the west to the Port of Melbourne will be more direct, efficient and safer, which is great for business and also for the truck drivers themselves.”
Past president of the LRTAV, John Beer said he raised the matter with government officials back when the project was in the early stages of planning, but they refused to take any notice.
Livestock transporters are barred from the Domain and Burnley tunnels on CityLink because of height restrictions, which effectively means that our transporters heading to and from the east side of Melbourne must choose alternative routes through residential areas.
“It’s ridiculous that we have a new construction – the West Gate Tunnel – that does not cater to the needs of our trucks – we are an important part of the transport industry with specific needs that have deliberately been overlooked,” Mr Beer said.
“It’s not future proofing because its restricting what we already have – it’s completely stupid – a monumental muck up.”
Shadow minister for Ports and Freight, Roma Britnell MP said, “this is yet another example of a government that has its eyes firmly set on the city and has no idea about the needs of our agriculture sector.”
“The Andrews Labor Government says the tunnel will enhance productivity for the freight and agriculture sectors, but they have failed to consult with one of the sector’s key bodies and as a result, the tunnel won’t cater for the needs of livestock carriers and won’t help them be any more efficient.
“To add insult to injury, the cost of this project has already blown out by $4 billion dollars and tunnelling works haven’t even started – every single Victorian will pay for that blowout through higher taxes, fees and charges – even if they don’t use the tunnel.
“The Andrews Government has again forgotten about the needs of regional freight operators and again shown it’s only interested on life inside the tram tracks.”