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FEEL like Melbourne's freeways are filling up with trucks?
New figures published by VicRoads show the goods carried by trucks on Melbourne's roads have grown by a massive 50 per cent in the past decade.
The boom in road transport has come as rail freight has collapsed to carry what one expert said was just 2.5 per cent of the state's freight load - a quarter of what it was a decade ago.
VicRoads has released its annual Traffic Monitor report. It shows that in 1999, each freeway lane carried a total of 450 tonnes of freight every hour. But last year, that same lane was carrying 700 tonnes of goods an hour.
Melbourne University transport and freight expert Bill Russell said our freeways were increasingly clogged with trucks because the amount of goods being moved by rail had plunged to 2.5 per cent.
In 2001, the State Government pledged to boost the freight carried by rail from 10 per cent to 30 per cent. Instead, rail freight dropped rapidly.
To cut rising emissions from trucks, more heavy hauling had to be done by train, Professor Russell said, using new intermodal hubs proposed by the Government - but still many years off being built - at Truganina, Donnybrook and Cranbourne. ''If we don't do that, all of the inner suburbs will be completely choked by trucks carrying containers.''
A spokesman for Roads Minister Tim Pallas said the Government expected the amount of freight carried by train to double in the next 20 years, and that there had been $1.3 billion committed to rail freight projects since 2007, including $173 million for the new rail bridge over Dynon Road.
The Government also last year introduced a new charge on trucks to encourage operators to access the Port of Melbourne at off-peak times. This charge will not apply to rail. However, advocates for rail pointed out that trucks paid only a quarter of the charges levied on trains and that this was a key reason cargo was now virtually all being moved by road instead of rail.
The new VicRoads traffic data also showed that most of the thousands of cars that use the city's freeways during the morning and evening peaks have only one occupant (the average is 1.17 person per car).
The figures also show that, despite plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars widening roads into inner Melbourne, the amount of traffic on them has stayed virtually static since 2003.
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