Priorities identified in master plan

Needed: A bypass for Traralgon is seen as a top infrastructure priority by the Committee for Gippsland. File photograph



THE Traralgon bypass is the top infrastructure priority for Gippsland under a new freight master plan for the region’s $18 billion economy.

Heavy vehicles and truck bypasses of Leongatha and Sale, a third international airport, and the Warragul-Drouin roads network are also key projects advocated by the master plan, released recently, that has been prepared by the Committee for Gippsland (C4G) and the Gippsland committee of Regional Development Australia. It was formally presented to the federal Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, the Hon Kristy McBain.

The freight infrastructure master plan, which is for the period 2023-2028, identifies 34 priorities developed with industry feedback, including 30 infrastructure-type projects and four supporting initiatives and strategies. It supersedes the previous 2013 freight plan.

C4G chief executive, Tony Cantwell, said the plan was a long-term priority of C4G, and was critical to maintaining essential services for a rapidly growing and transitioning Gippsland.

The other highest priorities are major upgrades to the Princes Highway west of Longwarry, including reinstating the 100+km/h speed limit; the Princes Highway Sale to Bairnsdale duplication; major upgrades to the Princes Highway east of Bairnsdale; major upgrades and duplication of the South Gippsland Highway; and additional turnouts and sidings on the Gippsland railway line.

The supporting initiatives are developing the freight industry and workforce, improved partnerships between the freight industry and government, local road funding and investment including first and last mile, and a review of the road safety barrier guidance with industry input.

Most freight is transported on the road network, mainly the Princes (A1) and South Gippsland Highways, but alternatives to the A1 include the C245 from north-eastern Melbourne through the Yarra Valley through Gippsland.

“This arterial road, for example, has the potential to be an additional freight route with investment made towards upgrades, passing lanes and safety works,” the plan says. The plan highlights the need for a Traralgon bypass.

“As freight volumes grow, it is becoming an increasing point of delay and the amenity impacts on the town are worsening,” it says.

Final approval of the route/alignment is being held up by the proximity to the Loy Yang mine.

“Advocacy is required to push for a decision on proximity of proposed route ASAP, or the route changed.”

The plan says the long-term program for an alternate Sale truck route is under way with funding for some infrastructure. “However, the remaining elements need to be planned and funded,” the plan says.

The plan’s second priority is the 100-year-old state managed Warragul-Drouin arterial road network.

“It’s putting the brakes on business and industry and impacting liveability for residents. the solution is a new arterial road network that’s better for local business and the community,” the plan says. As a high priority, funding is required for further planning.

While ‘road is king’, industry said there was a critical supporting role for rail, air and sea to create an integrated freight network to enhance productivity.

The plan says sea freight in Gippsland could be a big winner from economic developments. The Barry Beach Marine Terminal at Corner Inlet, a principal port for the Bass Strait oil and gas sector for decades, could benefit from the projected freight volumes from the offshore wind farms, together with safety risk mitigation and operational efficiencies.

To become a general cargo hub, the port would require a modest level of channel deepening 10 metres.

“The Barry Beach channel has been dredged on a number of previous occasions, most recently in 2010,” the plan says.

Channel improvements would create avenues for bulk materials handling.

“Gippsland currently receives 30-40 per cent of the 1.4 million tonnes per annum of fertiliser that is shipped into Geelong; this upgraded infrastructure would enable direct shipments and handling into Gippsland’s own regional port,” the plan says.

This would be an economic boost, reducing both costs to producers and rail and road transport congestion through the increasingly busy Melbourne corridor.

Ongoing advocacy and funding are also required to maintain the Lakes Entrance port, critical for the fishing industry, and Port Welshpool, used for stock transfer.

The plan emphasises the need for upgrades on the highways, such as improving bridges. For example, Dyers Transport has depots in Morwell, Sale and Bairnsdale, with a fleet of more than 200 trucks.

One of its biggest efficiency impediments is weight limits on bridges. Dyers has 15 loads per day between Gippsland and Melbourne. If the existing High Productivity Freight Vehicles (HPFV) network was extended along the Princes Highway through Gippsland, the company could lift the payload on their trucks by 11.5 tonnes.

This would allow Dyers to carry an extra 63,000 tonnes of general freight per year, equating to about $1.95 million per annum in direct economic benefit while reducing the number of heavy vehicles on the network by three trucks per day.

A third international airport is a high priority under the plan, requiring ongoing advocacy and funding.

“The decentralisation of congestion through Melbourne and growth away from Melbourne alone makes this a priority a logical one from a freight efficiency point of view,” the plan says. “The Gippsland-centric opportunities in the food and manufacturing industries via the air freight efficiencies would be remarkable.”

Funding is also required for upgrades at Bairnsdale, West Sale and Latrobe regional airports to support specialised freight and industry.

Connecting to the Port of Melbourne rail shuttle network to ensure rail plays a bigger role in Gippsland freight is a key aim of the plan. Funding is needed for a feasibility study into a Gippsland line freight terminal, located to the east of Melbourne on the line, which can transfer from truck to rail for transport through Melbourne to Port of Melbourne.

The Morwell intermodal terminal and Maryvale need continued government and industry support to establish further services. Maryvale now runs only one train per day.

Similarly, the plan says the Bairnsdale intermodal terminal needs ongoing government and industry support.

Other infrastructure priorities include a Bairnsdale southern alternative freight route, Wonthaggi alternative route, Stratford roundabouts, the duplication of the Mitchell River bridge to the Great Alpine Road at Bairnsdale, the Strzelecki and Highland Highways, a Warragul-Korumburra freight corridor, the Phillip Island Road corridor, Bass Highway, and norths-south arterial links – Great Alpine Road, Monaro Highway and Benambra-Corryong Road.

The report is available at