The Maribyrnong Truck Action Group has questioned the credibility of the Victorian Transport Association after its CEO, Philip Lovel, issued a press release that reveals a complete lack of understanding of road transport regulations in the inner West. The press release criticises MTAG’s recent blockade of the intersection of Francis St and Williamstown Rd Yarraville, which carries around 7000 trucks a day (VicRoads traffic count 2007). “Apart from the inaccuracies contained in their release it is also incredibly insulting to the 200 residents who attended the peaceful action and refers to us as, ‘marginal eccentrics’,” said MTAG spokesman, Peter Knight. “If Philip Lovel, is comfortable with referring to two serving councillors and former mayors of the city, a state MP, doctors, students, trades people, retirees, small business owners, and young children with their parents, as ‘marginal eccentrics’, then that’s a matter for him. What we are more concerned about is his apparent lack of understanding of the road rules.”
The press release states: “Meanwhile, truck traffic was diverted down Somerville Road. The truck traffic exemption from this road was lifted for the period of the protest, sending dozens of trucks down an unfamiliar road which has three primary schools on it”. Lovel then accuses MTAG of putting, “its own community at risk.” However, there is no truck traffic exemption on Somerville Rd after 6am and it carries up to 2000 semis a day (according to VicRoads count 2007), most of which are using the road as a short cut to the port. “Mr Lovel is right if he is worried about the idea of thousands of trucks a day barreling past primary schools, it is an alarming situation, but this is the first time he has mentioned it. And the only reason he did is to try to make protesters look bad, not out of concern for children”, said Peter Knight, “surely we’ve got a right to expect better from a peak body like the VTA. They are incredibly well funded, you think they’d be able to get their facts straight.”
MTAG also questions other assertions made by Mr Lovel including the claim, reproduced in the Herald Sun, that the protest, “cost Melbourne at least three million dollars.”
“Where does this figure come from?” asks Peter Knight, “if Mr Lovel can’t even get the road rules right, why would anybody believe him on this.”
MTAG of course regrets any inconvenience its protest caused but claims it has been driven to protest as a last resort after years of not being listened to by government. “We’re worried for the health of our children, it’s a simple as that. We’ve got the highest diesel pollution levels measured in Victoria (EPA publication #896) and the latest science suggests this is dangerous especially for children. In such a situation, who wouldn’t take to the streets?” asked Mr Knight. “I suggest even Philip Lovel would protest if he was concerned for his children.” Here’s the VTA press release in all its glory… MEDIA RELEASE 20 February 2008VTA SLAM IRRESPONSIBLE & COSTLY MTAG BLOCKADEVictorian Transport Association (VTA) Chief Executive, Philip Lovel has slammed today’s Maribyrnong Truck Action Group (MTAG) blockade of Francis Street, Yarraville. “This group of less than 100 people has just cost all Melbournians an enormous amount of time and money, and put our safety at risk, it is disgraceful”.The impact of this marginal group of eccentrics standing in the middle of the intersections of Francis Street and Williamstown Road to give a ten minute tirade on truck traffic was felt across Melbourne this morning. At the cost is heavy. The VTA were consulted by Victoria Police and VicRoads prior to the event and warned members to avoid the area.”The Police advised us they had 40 officers employed to man the nearby intersections and control traffic, VicRoads also had staff and hired signs to set up in the area. Imagine the cost of this operation, and what was going unattended whilst all these police officers were forced to assist MTAG”, Mr Lovel continued.”Meanwhile, truck traffic was diverted down Somerville Road. The truck traffic exemption from this road was lifted for the period of the protest, sending dozens of trucks down an unfamiliar road which has three primary schools on it”.MTAG have put their own community at risk, they have affected all Melbournians by causing delays, missed planes, safety and traffic hazards and an economic cost. The transport companies are simply doing their job to deliver freight to the community.MTAG claims that container related transport is clogging our roads and channel deepening exacerbate the situation. “These claims are incorrect and intended to take aim at the transport industry. Only a small percentage of the trucks on our roads carry containers”, Mr. Lovel said.A study conducted by the Port of Melbourne Corporation and the Department of Infrastructure in 2006 showed that of all the trucks in the Swanson/Dynon area only 52% were container trucks. The channeldeepening project will allow bigger ships with bigger loads into the Port. This does not mean more containers. It is the same number of containers on fewer ships.Let’s not forget that the Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest and oldest port, the infrastructure has grown around this. Transport companies are based in the area and service all parts of Melbourne; the majority of them have no container related activities.Come 2009 traffic in the Port precinct will be further reduced due to the relocation of the fresh fish and produce markets. This will ease traffic volumes in the area significantly, reducing smaller commercial vehicles and short trip trucks and passenger vehicles. The VTA is also advising the Port of Melbourne Corporation on future infrastructure upgrades to improve traffic flows.Mr. Lovel added, “Container related transport and empty running could also be significantly reduced if customers opened their gates to transport beyond daytime operating hours for deliveries.”The estimated freight growth will demand introducing channel deepening, plus higher productivity vehicles, improved rail systems and road networks as a part of an Integrated Solution. Rail, in particular needs serious attention and funding to become a viable partner to road transport. These infrastructure and regulatory improvements simultaneously advance efficiency, economy, safety and environmental benefits.Mr. Lovel concluded, “This blockade cost Melbourne, MTAG are selfish to think they can buy into an area which is known for its truck traffic, check the Melway, Francis Street was called “Docklands Highway”.________________________________________________________For further media information contact:Philip Lovel, Chief Executive, VTA, on Ph: (03) 9646 8590, orLucille Bolger, Communications Manager, VTA, on Ph: (03) 9646 8590
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