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Australians open to fairer, more sustainable road funding system

An 18-month study of road charging options finds that Australian motorists are not against different ways of paying for the nation’s roads.

An 18-month study of road charging options finds that Australian motorists are not against different ways of paying for the nation’s roads.An 18-month study of road charging options has found that Australian motorists are open to different ways of paying for the nation’s roads.

The Melbourne Road Usage Study, led by Transurban and supported by independent research and technology specialists, looked at how people used their cars on Melbourne’s road network under different charging options.

Transurban Chief Executive Officer Scott Charlton said the first stage of the study suggested a user-pays system could work in Australia, providing fair, sustainable and flexible funding for the infrastructure needed to support community growth and liveability.

As part of the trial, which began in May 2015, a sample of car owners installed a small GPS device in their vehicles and provided insights regularly throughout the project. More than 1600 individuals drove 12 million kilometres under a range of road charging options as part of the study.

“Our research clearly found that the more information people received about how Australia currently funds its roads, the more positive they became about the need for reform,” Mr. Charlton said.

“Getting direct and transparent feedback about how they used the road and the associated costs, made participants more willing to consider changing their driving habits, even after only a short period of time.”

Participants were clear about what they wanted to see in a new system if it were implemented. These are:

  •  Transparency – clear information about how much they travelled and what it cost
  •  Choice – genuine transport options and flexibility around working hours and services to allow them to make changes to how they use roads
  •  Fairness – an equitable system that was fair for everyone, regardless of where they lived, their income, or the car they drove and that funds raised were allocated to transport projects and maintenance
  •  Checks and balances – their privacy protected and personal information managed in a secure way.

Mr. Charlton said raising the community’s awareness of Australia’s current situation was an important step in the reform process.

“The research found that 96 per cent of Australians have little or no knowledge of fuel excise as our key source of road funding, let alone the inequity and unsustainability issues associated with it,” he said.

“Like everyone living in Australia today, we want road networks to operate as efficiently as possible – if the network is running smoothly so too are our roads.

“Our real-life trial has shown that technology was not a barrier to the implementation of a new road charging system.”

Mr. Charlton said the results of the Melbourne Road Usage Study’s second stage, which was testing participants’ responses to two congestion-based charging options, would be included in the full report due in October 2016.

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