ROADS funding from the federal budget has been met with a mixed response from an Orange transport operator who has applauded new measures to improve rest areas and bridges but has raised concerns about cuts in overall state road funding.
Ferguson Freighters owner David Ferguson said a program to upgrade bridges and build new and improved rest areas for truck drivers was a welcome addition in the budget.
“They [rest areas] are fairly critical on major highways,” he said.
“It’s a great plus ... it’s a wonderful thing to do. You can’t just pull one of those rigs off onto a side street.”
The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity program commits $140 million to bridge and rest area upgrades, with rural and regional highways expected to be one of the major beneficiaries.
“[Heavy vehicles] are going to be the way of the future whether they like it or not,” Mr Ferguson said.
The reduction in roads spending in the budget - NSW roads spending is almost halved to $1.2 billion - has been criticised by the NRMA, who say the government hasn’t passed on a record $14.6 billion from the fuel excise.
National spending on roads has been reduced from $6.9 billion in last year’s budget to $4.7 billion this year.
Mr Ferguson was also concerned about the cuts.
“A lot of older drivers have disappeared and the younger ones don’t have the experience,” he said. “If they improve the roads it makes it safer.
“Transport more than pays its way.”
Mr Ferguson praised the continuation of the federal black spot program targeting particularly dangerous stretches of road.
He hoped more funding from the program, expected to be $19 million per year for NSW, would be allocated to upgrade the Orange to Molong Road.
“It’s really bad ... we’re on it [the road] all the time,” he said.
“We do a tremendous amount of work between Port Kembla and Dubbo.”
The Roads to Recovery (R2R) program has also been continued with $1.75 billion allocated nationally over five years.
Shires Association of NSW president Ray Donald said the extension of the program was good news but the association was disappointed funding levels had not been increased to cater for rising construction costs.