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Melbourne's truck traffic is expected to more than double within 30 years, threatening to choke roads and deliver an economic blow to the state unless action is taken soon.
Planners have warned that the heavy traffic growth will make Melbourne less liveable without the construction of more roads and rail lines.
A confidential draft of the state government's Victorian freight plan, obtained by The Saturday Age, predicts freight truck trips on Melbourne's roads will surge from 290,000 a day to almost 650,000 in three decades.
This will require a vast new network of outer urban roads and rail lines to avoid congestion, it says.
If nothing is done, the state's economy will shrink by up to $34 billion a year through lost investment and employment, the planners warn.
The strategy also outlines the possibility of extensions to the Tullamarine and Avalon airports, an airport in Melbourne's east and the Port of Hastings becoming the state's main port.
The draft plan, dated June 17 and stamped ''cabinet-in-confidence'', reveals the government is already planning the next major road for Melbourne, the ''north-east link'', even before a sod has been turned on the east-west link.
The north-east link would run between the ring road at Greensborough and the Eastern Freeway/EastLink, the plan says.
''The government will progress planning for this project which, once completed, will result in Melbourne having a full 'ring road' for the first time,'' it says.
But the strategy contains no new funding commitments or costings, and many of its proposals rely on significant Commonwealth funding.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder and Ports Minister David Hodgett write in the plan's foreword: ''Our state is growing fast - in population, in the scale of the economy and in the economy's freight task, which is forecast to triple between now and 2050.
''The challenge facing Victoria is to sustainably accommodate this dramatic growth.''
By 2046, 1177 million tonnes of freight a year will move around the state, of which more than 97 per cent will travel by truck, the plan predicts. In Melbourne, this will mean 648,000 truck trips a day, up from 291,000 in 2011.
To prevent trucks overwhelming city roads, the plan proposes progressively shifting freight activity ''from central Melbourne to selected outer industrial areas''.
This includes proposals to:
Shut down the Dynon railyards in West Melbourne and build new road/rail terminals at Truganina in Melbourne's west and Beveridge in the outer north.
The plan forecasts that the Port of Hastings will in time eclipse the Port of Melbourne as the nation's biggest, handling up to three times as many shipping containers.
Activity at the Port of Melbourne will have begun to decline by 2050, it says, because of changes to the character of the inner city and because dredging deeper channels in Port Phillip Bay to accommodate the next generation of huge ships was not feasible.
By 2050, rail is forecast to carry an even smaller percentage of Victoria's freight than it does today - just 2.37 per cent.
Last year rail shifted 2.79 per cent. But it could potentially carry 15 to 20 per cent, depending on policy decisions and environmental factors, the plan says.
Labor's ports spokeswoman, Natalie Hutchins, said the draft plan was full of proposals that were half-formed and unfunded.
''After 2½ years of contemplation there are no new ideas, no vision and no real funding commitments to support the growing future freight task,'' Ms Hutchins said.
''The only real funding commitments to come out of this are pork-barrel road and logistics projects in regional seats under the guise of fixing 'bottlenecks','' she said, referring to nine smaller projects the plan lists that have already been funded.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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