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Calls to curb holiday road toll -

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CHRIS UHLMANN, PRESENTER: A spotlight on the nation's roads

Last year, 243 people were killed in accidents involving heavy vehicles with a spate of horror
fatalities in the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

There are half a million registered trucks carrying 10 million tonnes of freight across the country
each year.

This compares with only 1 million tonnes by rail.

Although trucks can't solely be blamed for the road toll, there are now calls to reduce the amount
of freight travelling on highways, especially vehicles carrying hazardous materials.

Tracy Bowden reports.

TRACEY BOWDEN, REPORTER: It's said that without trucks Australia stops. Trucks carry more than 90
per cent of freight between Sydney and Melbourne and 80 per cent between Sydney and Brisbane.
Thousands of trucks travel the roads between the major cities every day.

BILL RUSSELL, TRANSPORT EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: Really we're seeing more and more trucks
and cars competing for road space and motorists often, quite rightly, are fearful when they have to
share the road with extremely large trucks, B-doubles or have to overtake them on country roads.

TRACEY BOWDEN: More than 70 people have been killed on Australian roads this summer, and some of
the most horrific accidents have involved trucks. Now a number of transport and consumer groups are
calling for action.

BOB NANVA, RAIL, TRAM & BUS UNION: We're asking for Commonwealth and state governments to amend
their dangerous goods legislation so that it bans the transportation of dangerous goods by road.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Bob Nanva, from the Rail, Tram & Bus Union says transporting dangerous goods by rail
is not only logical but practical.

BOB NANVA: One freight train can take 150 semi-trailers off our roads. It's abundantly clear that
if we can take these dangerous goods off our roads we can make them a much, much safer place for
families to get from A to B.

DAVID CAMPBELL, NSW TRANSPORT & ROADS MINISTER: I don't think it's practical, as some have
suggested, to have all hazardous material taken off the road. I had some people suggesting that.
It's just not possible; it has to be delivered to locations without rail.

BILL RUSSELL: We need to change regulations, particularly to make road transport pay a greater
share of the cost, make more of a level playing field between rail and road.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Professor bill Russell from the Australasian Centre for the Governance and
Management of Urban Transport at Melbourne University, says governments should be working harder to
get petroleum and diesel freight off Australia's highways.

BILL RUSSELL: We have the infrastructure basically in place in most towns and cities and in the
fuel terminals in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and it's really a question of reinstating and
recommissioning that infrastructure and perhaps acquiring new rolling stock.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Last year Shell decided to stop using rail to transport petrol from its Sydney
refinery to three regional centres. The change followed a decision by the New South Wales
Government to cut a 1.2 centilitre subsidy for moving fuel by rail. Shell declined The 7.30
Report's request for an interview. It says the decision was not related to the subsidy, but was
about efficiency.

BOB NANVA: If companies want to pursue commercial imperatives and profits rather than what is in
the best interests of road users then we are saying governments have an obligation to step in and
pull them into line, and that's what this legislation will achieve.

WAYNE SWAN, TREASURER: What the Federal Government is doing is making a massive investment in rail
freight and that massive investment in rail freight is required because of the concerns that you
have just raised, that many goods which are transported by road might be better off being
transported by rail.

BRIAN NYE, AUSTRALASIAN RAIL ASSOCIATION: Rail in the past was not that reliable but federal
governments spent $2.5 billion in upgrading the tracks between Melbourne and Sydney and we really
needed to change the whole expectations of business and the community that we've got to use rail
more.

TRACEY BOWDEN: Jill Lewis, from the Australian Trucking Association, says it's wrong to blame
trucks or their driver for the majority of accidents, and points out that changing the approach to
freight transport is a complex issue.

JILL LEWIS, AUSTRALIAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATION: We need all modes of transport to come together so
that we can have a freight strategy that takes us into the future that will deliver safety and
certainly enhance our productivity because that's what Australia needs.

TRACEY BOWDEN: And according to the New South Wales Police, despite the disastrous road toll in
recent weeks, there's no evidence that trucks are playing a greater role in fatalities.

JOHN HARTLEY, NSW ASSISTANCE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Certainly at this stage we haven't seen an
increase in truck related fatalities in the last four or five years so from a statistical point of
view we haven't seen that occurring in New South Wales.

TRACEY BOWDEN: That may be the case but it's estimated that over the next decade, the demand for
freight transport in Australia will double, making the nation's roads even more crowded.

BILL RUSSELL: Congestion and safety issues associated with big trucks are going to really grow in
all the eastern states and government really needs to be much more proactive in supporting the rail
sector over the next few years.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Tracey Bowden with that report.