Statement regarding Government’s Smart Freight Partnership – Inner West announcement and lack of curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road
On 10 July 2019, the State Government announced the Smart Freight Partnership – Inner West. This evolved from the Maribyrnong Cleaner Freight Initiative, proposed to Government in 2017 by MTAG and the Victorian Transport Association (VTA). The joint initiative aimed to lessen the impacts of trucks on residents while providing incentives for freight operators with modern cleaner operating trucks. It was designed to help the freight industry through the transition period leading up to the 24/7 bans, by introducing gradual curfews now, certifying drivers to assist with compliance and introducing road modifications to improve safety.
We had presented the initiative to Luke Donnellan in early 2018, however it went nowhere. Following the state election, Ministers Jaala Pulford and Melissa Horne indicated they were keen to get it moving again.
The announcement from State Government should have been a day of elation for MTAG. We knew it was coming and had a webpage written up, a Facebook post and a series of tweets ready to go with phrases about a fantastic announcement, exciting news etc.
Instead, when it happened we found ourselves scrambling for details of what the proposal actually entailed. In particular, we were concerned that the media release did not specifically address curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road. We had expected the announcement to communicate what the package was, what it would cover, and then speak to a timeline of implementation. This did not happen.
A key component of the proposal put to Government by MTAG and the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) in 2018 was additional truck curfews on Buckley Street (Hyde St to Geelong Rd) and Williamstown Road (Geelong Rd to Francis St) that would finally see night and weekend curfews on all the major freight routes in the City of Maribyrnong.
We had been clearly told that the curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road would be included in the package of actions. There had been no communication to us about any changes to the agreement reached between MTAG and the VTA, and senior executives from VicRoads, Freight Victoria and Maribyrnong City Council, and Ministers Pulford and Horne. To find out at the eleventh hour that this may not be the case was incredibly concerning. This was supposed to be a partnership and yet it was already feeling very one sided.
MTAG fully understood that there was no immediate funding available to roll out the entire package in one go, and that it was to be staged. However, at no point in the meetings about the initiative was it suggested that curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road would be left out or that the curfews were to be a two-stage affair. This is not what was agreed.
An Environmental Freight Zone is hardly a zone if streets within it are exempt. Right now we have the oldest trucks in the developed world running up and down our streets in their tens of thousands. Put simply, the upcoming Environmental Freight Zone will fail if streets within the zone are exempt.
We certainly do not want to be seen as “collaborators” to an initiative that would have a detrimental impact on many of our supporters and the communities that we have been advocating for, for close on two decades. More importantly, we do not want our name on a flawed scheme that would send dirty trucks down other streets and increase the risk of bridge crashes. We had made it very clear to VicRoads that the whole scheme would fall over if streets were left out – not a single truck will be upgraded if there’s another easy way to go.
Understandably, the lack of clarity that resulted from what was a confusing announcement meant that when it occurred, the very residents we set out to advocate for felt they had been abandoned by MTAG, particularly those on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road.
We were not happy, but despite this we went out and did positive media for the Government, while simultaneously being attacked by our own members.
Why did we do this?
The night before the release, we asked about MTAG’s name being removed from the press release. We were told that it was too late, but were assured by Minister Horne, ministerial advisors and senior bureaucrats that “we will fix this”. Meanwhile, media interviews came and went. We focused on the positive side of things – particularly the fact that this represented a ground breaking example of the community and the freight industry working together, and something that had the potential to be rolled out on other roads impacted by trucks, such as Millers Road and Rosanna Road in other municipalities. It was something we had worked hard for over the last two years and we took the Government at face value, staying positive that this would be sorted out.
The good news is that State Government have assured us that curfews are not off the table, however VicRoads are asking for more time to undertake traffic modelling studies. We acknowledge that this work is important, but it’s a bit hard to swallow when VicRoads have had this initiative on their desks for almost 18 months.
We do acknowledge that Minister Horne and senior executives from Minister Pulford’s office have kept us in the loop every day and are working hard to address this issue.
MTAG is calling for a finished document that we can consider and sign, that outlines the details of the Government’s ‘Smart Freight Partnership – Inner West’, including curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road to be implemented with the other curfew changes, not as a two-stage curfew roll out. If there is something holding up the introduction of curfews on Buckley Street and Williamstown Road, the changes to curfews on the other roads will need to wait.
We very much still support the aims of the initiative and are proud of the proposal we put together with the VTA. We applaud the Governments willingness to implement an Environmental Freight Zone and welcome the much needed speed reductions.
We also want see additional funding for enforcement and policing of truck curfews and benefits such as financial support to help owners transition to newer Euro V compliant trucks.
And of course we are continuing to advocate for 24/7 curfews on Williamstown Road when the West Gate Tunnel opens and for filtration system pollution equipment to be installed in the West Gate Tunnel exhaust stacks and operational when the tunnel opens.
We look forward to further discussions with Government that will see the Smart Freight Partnership fully reflect the vision and agreement between MTAG and the VTA. After all, this agreement is the most comprehensive plan ever put on the table to deal with the truck issue in the City of Maribyrnong.