And with the increasing contribution that road tires make to micro-plastic pollution, there will hopefully be more pressure on Governments to shift freight off roads and to rail. Umpteen reports to government have not changed the funding model. Heavy Vehicle road transport is cross subsidized by other road users. Rail operators cover the lot, plus the ARTC dividend which goes back to the government. It's not a level playing field.
Billions were spent duplicating the Hume. Some sections built 20 years ago are cracking up under the load.
a couple of holes in your arguments. changes to registration practises and more road-friendly suspensions on trucks have actually reduced the impact. By the time you add in the road-tax component of diesel fuel (which rail doesn't pay by the way) only trucks under 5.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (so about a 3 tonne payload) don't contribute more than they cost. these are 2017 figures but road has been paying it's way since the late 1990's by the time you take registration and road taxes on fuel into account.
Rail pays about 60 cents a litre for diesel - trucks around $1:30 per litre on the east coast due to the taxes (of course the rest of us pay around $1.40 as we don't get bulk discounts from fuel companies as we are not buying 400-1000 litres a time)
Roads, like rail needs maintenance. The hume was duplicated in Victoria long before the standard gauge line was and has had nowhere near as much maintenance. Pot holes are caused by cracks in the bitumen allowing water to flow into the foundations. It can also be caused by bad drainage and floods (the latter 2 apply to rail as well). We know an unmaintained railway line or building soon degenerates into a mess why do we expect the roads to be any different)
Even from a technology perspective trucks have moved on while a lot of the rail hasn't. Trucks the age of the B and S class diesels weigh in around 23 gross tonne while carry an 15 tonne payload at about 2km/litre of fuel (so about 8 tonnes of tare weight in truck and trailer). Modern b-doubles weigh in at around 62 tonne for a 43 tonne payload using fuel at around 2.1 to 2.4 km/litre. Some of setups under the PBS rules can carry a couple of tonne more and obtain 3km/litre. Nobody tries to make money with trucks as old as the C-class locomotives or older yet these are common on our freight trains. These still using fuel at 1950's to 1970's consumption levels. You also have 100 tonne or more of 'dead weight' (being the locos) that need to move before you have any payload. A prime mover still tares around 5 to 7 tonne as modern materials have lightened the truck while equipment levels have increased (air-conditioning, heating, bunks etc).
Rail does pay access charges but they don't pay registration or road taxes on their fuel. The statement by PN is purely aimed to get the most political mileage to blame others for their poor business decisions