Infrastructure Victoria has released a discussion paper exploring how Melbourne’s growing congestion problem can be addressed with the introduction of a well-designed road pricing scheme.

The paper, The Road Ahead, predicts congestion is set to worsen in the future and outlines the benefits of a road pricing scheme.

Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive, Michel Masson, said road pricing was the first step towards a comprehensive network-wide regime that could deliver significant benefits.

“Good road pricing will help manage demand, make travel times more reliable, reduce the costs of goods and services, reduce emissions and improve amenity,” Mr Masson said.

“Motorists already pay to drive through car registration, Commonwealth fuel excise, parking fees, tolls and other taxes, but the current pricing system is not fair, efficient or sustainable.”

Mr Masson said Infrastructure Victoria supported the national reform agenda which advocates for a comprehensive review of road user charges.

“We welcome the announcement by the Federal Government yesterday that it is launching an investigation into road pricing for all vehicles because we want an open discussion with the community and all levels of government about the different approaches that could be taken to pricing,” Mr Masson said.

“Road pricing should not be another tax – it should replace, reduce or streamline existing fees and charges, creating a fairer way of paying to use the road.”

The paper predicts that by 2030 congestion on Melbourne’s road will cost every Melbourne resident an extra $1700 a year, and by 2046 the average speed during morning peak will have slowed to just 31km per hour.

“No city can just build its way out of congestion,” Mr Masson said.  

“Experience shows that just building infrastructure attracts more users until it’s congested again, so we need to introduce demand management as part of the solution in tackling congestion.

“We identified introducing a comprehensive transport pricing scheme as one of the top three recommendations in our draft strategy because it is clear that decisive action is required.”

Infrastructure Victoria recommends the revenue generated by a road pricing regime be invested directly back into transport infrastructure and services.

The report also highlights that road pricing should not be introduced unless the public transport network can cope with increased demand.

“Road pricing should support people shifting to public transport at peak times, so it is imperative that adequate public transport infrastructure and services are in place first,” Mr Masson said.

The paper outlines four potential models for road pricing, and considers overseas case studies such as London and Stockholm.

“We have a long way to go before we can make a recommendation about what model would work best in Melbourne, which is why we are asking for community input,” Mr Masson said.

“Involving the community in the conversation is essential to ensure we can design a road pricing scheme that considers all of the potential impacts and benefits.”

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