|Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function|
Prior to the establishment of the Central Roads Board (VA 2803) in 1853, the construction of roads and bridges had been the responsibility of the Clerk of Works until 1844 when the Superintendent of Bridges was appointed. The Superintendent apparently exercised joint responsibility with the Colonial Engineer from the latter's appointment in 1852. From separation in 1851, these colonial officials were responsible to the Colonial Secretary.
Establishment and Functions
In 1853, the Central Roads Board was established under the provisions of An Act for making and improving Roads in the Colony of Victoria (16 Vic., No.40). The Board consisting of three members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, was to be responsible for the formation, construction, improvement, management and maintenance of proclaimed main roads and bridges and for the co-ordination of the works undertaken by the District Roads Boards. The Act provided for the appointment of a Secretary and Treasurer to the Board and for the appointment of an Inspector General of Roads and a staff of engineers, surveyors, clerks and other officers who were responsible to the Board. The Board was also responsible for the calling of tenders, determination of the position of toll gates, appointment of toll keepers, levying of tolls which were payable at any punt or ferry constructed at public expense at a rate which was determined by the Lieutenant Governor and for prosecutions for the non payment of tolls.
In rural areas the earliest local government authorities were concerned with roads. The New South Wales Parish Roads Act 1840 provided for the establishment of elective Road Trusts to maintain and repair roads in their areas. The first trust was Warringal (Heidelberg) in 1841. Under the provisions of Act 16 Vic.,No.40, District Road Boards were established and given responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges other than those proclaimed as main roads. In the exercise of their powers District Road Boards were expected to comply with the requirements of any general plan established by the Central Roads Board for the development of the colony's roads and bridges and the Chairmen of the District Road Boards were entitled to attend the meetings of the Central Roads Board in an ex-officio capacity having the right to be heard but not to vote. District Road Boards also had the power to levy rates and tolls.
The Municipal Institutions Act 1854 provided for the establishment of Municipal Districts which were responsible for the construction and maintenance of local roads and bridges.
Formation of Department of Roads and Bridges 1858
Under the provisions of the Board of Land and Works Act 1857 21 Vic., No.31 the Central Roads Board (VA 2803) was disbanded on 1 January 1858 and the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) took over responsibility for main road construction and bridges. Local authorities continued to be responsible for local roads and bridges (see VRG 12 Municipalities).
Operational responsibility for main roads and bridges was exercised by the newly formed Department of Roads and Bridges which operated as a sub-department of the Board of Land and Works.
Administrative Structure and Functions
This Branch was headed by a non-political Commissioner of Roads and Bridges who was a member of the Board of Land and Works and who had responsibility for the general management and control of the Department. The Commissioner would obtain information from district engineers and the public concerning the expediency of constructing particular roads or bridges and would prepare a scheme and estimates to be submitted to Cabinet.
This Branch was headed by the Inspector-General of Roads who was responsible for determining the character of works to be executed, and for the execution by contract of all such construction and maintenance works. This officer had control over district Road Engineers who in conjunction with surveyors from the Department of Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538) would prepare plans and designs, take levels and mark out lines of roads.
NOTE: The relationship between local government and the administration of roads and bridges needs to be clarified.
Role of Board of Lands and Works
The Board of Land and Works (VA 744), vested with statutory responsibility for roads and bridges, accepted the contracts, approved and authorized the business and expenditure of the Department, and decided matters of difficulty and all matters of policy. The Board also assumed responsibility for regulating the collection of tolls.
Prior to the establishment of the Board of Land and Works (VA 744), the Commissioner of Public Works was the Minister responsible for roads and bridges functions. Upon establishment, the President of the Board of Land and Works assumed responsibility for all powers previously vested in both the Commissioner of Public Works (VRG 28) and the Surveyor General (or Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey - see VRG 18). It is apparent however that roads and bridges matters continued to be associated with Public Works functions until the Department of Roads and Bridges emerged in its own right in 1858 (see also VA 669). Between late 1858 and late 1861 the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey appears to have been the Minister responsible for roads and bridges. In December 1861 a Commissioner of Railways and Roads was appointed assuming responsibility for roads and bridges functions.
Merging of Roads and Railways Administration 1871
Despite there being a single Minister responsible for both railways and roads from 1861 it is evident that the Department of Railways (VA 2877) and the Department of Roads and Bridges existed quite independently, with separate administration, until 1871. On 26 April 1871 John Steavenson, who was the Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, was also appointed to the position of Secretary to the Railways Department and thereafter the two departments appear to have been jointly administered as the Department of Railways and Roads (VA 2875).
From the Department of Roads and Bridges (VA 2964) the new Department assumed responsibility for the construction and maintenance of main roads and bridges. Local roads continued to be the responsibility of road districts, shires and boroughs.
Under the Local Government Act 1863 , road districts and shires were given recognition as being the mediums of local government with the delineation of their rights, powers, modes of proceedings and responsibilities. Roads and bridges, including main roads, within the municipality were to become the responsibility of the district or shire. District boards were to construct and maintain main roads following the issuing of an Order-in-Council and if a plan had been deposited with and approved by the Board of Land and Works. If the proper completion of the work was able to be certified, a payment would be made to the district from that portion of the consolidated revenue known as the Main Road Construction Fund.
Split of Railways and Roads Functions
On 1 September 1877 the Governor-in-Council severed the administration of matters relating to roads and bridges from the Department of Railways and Roads. Railways matters were subsequently assumed by a new Department of Railways II (VA 2965) and roads and bridges matters passed to a Roads and Bridges Branch operating within the Public Works Department (VA 669).
Research is yet to be undertaken into the role of the Roads and Bridges, later the Roads, Bridges and Harbour Works section of the Public Works Department in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges from the abolition of the Department of Railways and Roads in 1877 until the establishment of the Country Roads Board (VRG 722) in 1913.
By 1884 the civil establishment for this function within the Professional Division of the Department included an engineer "specially engaged in the preparation of designs, plans and specifications of the new Falls and Princes Bridges"; an engineer, two inspectors, an overseer and three foremen of road labourers who together were responsible for the supervision and inspection of roads, bridges and reclamation works executed by the Government; the preparation of plans and specifications and the supervision of plans and specifications furnished by local bodies for subsidized works. Within the Administrative Division there were three clerical officers responsible for the conduct of business relating to roads and bridges, so far as it pertained to the work of the Department and for correspondence relating to municipal work in connection with the administration of the Local Government Act.
In 1894 the establishment for the Administrative Division was unchanged and the Professional Division consisted of two engineers, an inspector and a draughtsman who were located within a section for Roads, Bridges and Harbour Works. By 1904 there was no longer a separate section within the Administrative Division and the Professional establishment consisted of two engineers (one position being vacant) and two draftsmen who continued to be responsible for the supervision and inspection of Government roads and other works, the preparation of plans and specifications and the supervision of local bodies' plans.
Given the very few staff employed, it is presumed that the actual construction work must have been undertaken by contractors but the role of the Department in co-ordinating and managing this work has not yet been researched.
The appropriations for this period include allocations for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges outside the boundaries of the municipalities. By 1889-90 these funds had been reduced to 750 pounds which was allocated for the completion of existing contracts. Allocations for non-municipal roads then ceased for a period during the 1890's when the appropriations for public works generally were drastically reduced. By 1897-8, the appropriations included sums for the making, clearing and draining of roads to Village Settlements and by 1903-4 substantial sums were again being provided for road works and bridges, drainage and other works subject to the approval of the Governor-in-Council.
Throughout the period small sums were also allocated to local municipal authorities to assist in the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. Although these allocations were also significantly less during the 1890's, at no time did appropriations for this purpose cease. Although the constitution of municipal authorities has been amended a number of times, the construction and maintenance of local roads and bridges has continued to be a municipal responsibility (see VRG 12 Municipalities).
Establishment of the Country Roads Board 1913
By 1910 it had become increasingly apparent that there was a need for a central roads authority to take over responsibility from the Board of Land and Works (VA 744) for the care and management of the main roads of the state. Up to this time there had been a lack of co-operation between the agencies with operational responsibility for roads, i.e. the Roads and Bridges Branch of the Public Works Department and local municipalities, in the construction and maintenance of main roads. Expenditure of State funds was without proper supervision and there was no thorough investigation of actual needs. The absence of a systematic policy, as well as a lack of funds, had resulted in Victorian roads being in a deplorable condition. At this time the use of the motor car accentuated the demand for better roads.
As a result of these needs the Country Roads Act 1912 (No.2415) was proclaimed in 1913 providing for the establishment of the Country Roads Board (VA 722) as a central road authority with responsibility for those roads considered to be main roads.
Although the Country Roads Board (VA 722) was established in 1913 to co-ordinate the construction and maintenance of main roads and bridges, the Public Works Department continued to have a role in the construction of roads and bridges. The final report of the Royal Commission on the State Public Service in 1917 indicates that the Public Works Department confined its operations chiefly to by-roads, tourist roads and special roads, although some overlapping with the Board could occur. The report which made no mention of bridge construction by the Public Works Department, proposed the amalgamation of the Roads and Bridges Section with the Country Roads Board. It is not clear exactly when the Public Works Department ceased to exercise responsibility for road construction, although in 1936 responsibility for tourist roads was vested in the Country Roads Board.
Functions of the Board
Initial functions of the Board, as defined by the Act, were:
to ascertain which roads should be main roads,
to ascertain the most effective methods of road construction and maintenance,
to ascertain the deviations in existing roads or new roads which would facilitate communication and improve conditions for traffic.
After an initial investigation by the Board construction guidelines were established and the letting of construction contracts, either directly by the Board or by municipal councils, proceeded by circa 1915.
Extensions of Responsibilities
At various times other types of roads were proclaimed under legislation and subsequently came within the responsibility of the Country Roads Board.
The Development Roads Act 1918 provided for the declaration of 'Developmental Roads', roads which would serve to develop any area of land by providing access to a railway station for primary producers.
The Highways and Vehicles Act 1924 provided for the declaration of certain arterial roads as State Highways.
The Tourists' Roads Act 1936 provided for the declaration of roads of sufficient interest or roads leading to tourist resorts or attractions as Tourists Roads. Construction of tourists roads had occurred prior to this on an ad hoc basis from at least 1917, through the Tourists Resorts Committee which functioned within the Department of Public Works (VA 669), however no provisions had existed for maintenance or improvement prior to this Act. The Country Roads Board continued to have responsibility for tourists' roads until 1983 when it was succeeded by the Road Construction Authority (VA 1054).
The Country Roads Act 1956 enabled the Board to construct by-pass roads which became popularly known as freeways.
The Board also exercised some responsibility for other outer-metropolitan roads and, in conjunction with Municipal Councils, for unclassified roads. Other functions of the Board have included:
inspection and supervision of the construction and maintenance of country bridges,
control of speed and weight of commercial goods vehicles,
licensing of country, commercial, passenger vehicles including touring and light motor omnibuses and prescription of routes, under the Motor Omnibus Acts (until 1934 when the Transport Regulation Board (VA 2738) inherited this responsibility),
collecting on behalf of the Traffic Commission, a body made up of representatives of agencies concerned with traffic management, data on road safety and traffic accidents (until 1971 when this function was inherited by the Road Safety and Traffic Authority (VA 487)).
Following an amendment to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Act in 1956 (No. 5982) the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (VA 1007) was vested with responsibility for the construction and maintenance of proclaimed metropolitan bridges and main highways. In July 1974 the Country Roads Board resumed responsibility for such roads and bridges under the provisions of the Metropolitan Bridges Highways and Foreshores Act 1974.
Decentralisation of Administration
Increases in the Board's direct responsibilities and the necessity for the supervision and control of works entrusted to municipalities led the Board in 1926 to adopt a scheme of decentralization. Over time the following ten regional divisions, each headed by a Divisional Engineer, were established: Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Benalla, Bendigo, Dandenong, Geelong, Horsham, Metropolitan, Traralgon and Warnambool. At present only the Ballarat Division has been registered (VA 1021).
Until 1970, the Country Roads Board reported directly to the Minister responsible for Public Works. On 12 June 1970 the Minister for Local Government assumed responsibility for the Country Roads Act, and from 19 May 1973 the Board reported to the Minister for Transport.
Restructuring of Transport Portfolio and Abolition of the Board 1983
In 1982 the administration of the State's transport authorities began to undergo a significant transformation. Under the provisions of the West Gate Bridge Authority (Transfer of Functions) Act 1982, proclaimed on 1 July 1982, responsibility for the functions of the Westgate Bridge Authority were transferred to the Country Roads Board. The following year, on 30 June 1983, the Country Roads Board was succeeded by the Road Construction Authority (VA 1054) established under the provisions of the Transport Act 1983 (No.9921).
The Act sets out the functions of the Road Construction Authority as follows:
to maintain, upgrade and extend the state's declared road network
in conjunction with municipalities, to assist in the maintenance, upgrading and construction of other roads
subject to agreement with the Road Traffic Authority (VA 1036) to purchase, design, construct, erect, install, maintain and operate traffic signals and other traffic facilities for the purposes of traffic management and control
to determine load limits and advisory speed limits for any road, bridge or culvert and to determine maximum speed limits for travel on roads under construction or repair or over bridges or culverts
to provide and maintain roadside reserves adjacent to any road for the use or enjoyment of persons using any such road
to establish guidelines and requirements for the issue of vehicle mass and dimension permits
to compete on the open market for road construction and other projects
to investigate, promote and undertake research into any matter related to the performance of its functions, powers or duties.
To carry out its functions the Road Construction Authority, in 1986, comprised three main branches:
The Operations Branch was responsible for those activities of the Road Construction Authority associated with the maintenance and operation of the road network, ensuring its proper maintenance and upgrading where necessary within the limits of available funds.
The Planning and Design Branch was responsible for management and co-ordination of investigation and planning, road design, survey, traffic engineering and bridge engineering functions in order to efficiently identify issues and develop solutions which contributed to the Road Construction Authority's objectives.
The Corporate Administration Branch was responsible for management and co-ordination of finance, management information systems, legal services, property acquisition and disposal, and administration functions and for ensuring the provision of efficient corporate services.
The Road Construction Authority maintained the system of regional divisions created by its predecessor, the Country Roads Board (VA 722). In 1986 the following divisions existed: Bairnsdale, Ballarat (VA 1020), Benalla, Bendigo, (Dandenong), Geelong, Horsham, (Metropolitan), Traralgon and Warrnambool.
The Road Construction Authority ceased functioning on 30 June 1989 when it merged with the Road Traffic Authority (VA 1036) to form the Roads Corporation (VA 2982).
The functions of the Roads Corporation, as set out in the Act, are essentially those carried out by its two previous agencies. The main functions are:
to maintain, upgrade and extend the State's road network
in conjunction with municipalities, to assist in the maintenance, upgrading and construction of other roads
to design, construct and maintain traffic signals and other traffic facilities for the purposes of traffic management
to determine load limits and speed limits
to provide and maintain roadside reserves
to establish guidelines and requirements for the issue of vehicle mass and dimension permits
to provide registration and licensing procedures associated with road transport
to develop and implement road safety strategies and road safety education programs
to develop and implement traffic management strategies
to specify and promote the adoption of road accident prevention practices
to develop and supervise regulations applicable to road traffic
to compete for road construction and other projects on the open market
to promote and undertake research into any matter relating to the performance of its functions
The Roads Corporation is subject to the control and general direction of the Director-General of Transport and the Minister for Transport. Since the reorganisation of the structure of government in 1996, the Roads Corporation is ultimately under the control of the Department of Infrastructure (VA 3971). A Roads Corporation Board is appointed by the Minister to provide advice to the Chief Executive of the Corporation.
In addition, the Roads Corporation is assisted by a Road Safety Board appointed by the Minister for Transport. The Board reports to the Corporation on road safety matters.