Record infrastructure spend the new normal, says IA
A new wave of investment and reform is needed to ensure Australia’s infrastructure continues to support our quality of life and economic productivity over the next 15 years – that’s the key take-out from the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit released last week by Infrastructure Australia.
“Changing and growing demand and a mounting maintenance backlog is putting unprecedented pressure on infrastructure services. The current infrastructure program must do more than plug the immediate funding gap, but instead deliver long-term changes to the way we plan, fund and deliver infrastructure,” says Infrastructure Australia Chair, Julieanne Alroe.
“Rather than a short-term boom, the historic level of activity we are seeing in the sector must, and is likely, to continue for the next 15 years and potentially beyond. This must be the new normal if we are to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead."
Ms Alroe says the 2019 Audit finds that infrastructure in our four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth, particularly on the urban fringe. With our population projected to grow by 24 per cent to reach 31.4 million by 2034, our largest cities are expected to see pressure on access to infrastructure.
“The dominance of infill development in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will require investment in high capacity public transport, enhancements to existing energy and water infrastructure, improved shared spaces and a renewal of inner city health and education services," she says.
“In contrast, the growing outer suburbs of the other major cities, including Perth, where greenfield development will dominate, are expected to see pressure on their road networks, as well as expansion of utility networks, new shared and recreation spaces as well as cultural facilities.
“The costs of inaction are significant. If investment were to stop, the cost of road congestion is projected to grow by $18.9 billion to $38.7 billion in 2031. This impacts quality of life, as well as our economic productivity and competitiveness as a nation.”
The 2019 Audit puts the community at the centre of infrastructure planning, using user-focused measures of access, quality and cost, it also highlights how service quality varies greatly for Australians depending on where they live.
Infrastructure Australia is calling for feedback and submissions in response to 136 challenges and 44 opportunities identified in the 2019 Audit. Submissions will be open until 31 October 2019.
Time to put the foot down, says RA
The latest Australian Infrastructure Audit underlines the need for governments to put the pedal to the metal on transport infrastructure planning and spending, says Roads Australia President David Stuart-Watt.
“Despite a record investment over the last decade, our transport infrastructure - particularly in our fastest growing cities - continues to struggle under the weight of demand,” Mr tuart-Watt said last week.
Earlier this year RA published a report calling on Australia to follow the lead of its north Asian neighbours and invest more heavily in mass transit.
“As our major Australian cities become increasingly densified, we need to shift our transport focus away from private vehicle usage to mass transit,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.
The latest IA Audit underlines this message - urgent and exponential spending on public transport is required if we’re to have any hope of keeping pace with expected population growth over the coming decades.”
Mr Stuart-Watt said alongside increased spending on mass transit systems, the introduction of highly automated vehicles across both the heavy and light fleet would improve safety and congestion on the existing road network.
“Automated and zero emission vehicle technologies are evolving quickly and we need to be open to their introduction by ensuring the necessary policy and regulatory frameworks are in place to support them.”
Mr Stuart-Watt also welcomed IA’s focus on addressing the maintenance backlog and workforce skills and capacity.
“Our road maintenance backlog continues to grow. The longer maintenance stays in the ‘too hard’ basket, the greater the cost in the long-run,” he said.
“On the skills front, we’d like to see the Australian Government work more closely with the infrastructure industry to ensure industry-critical skill sets are included under the new Temporary Skills Shortage visa system.”
Mr Stuart-Watt said the task of addressing Australia’s infrastructure needs would be best met by all governments working off the same page.
“It’s important that all states and territories adopt a harmonised approach to business case development and assessment, in line with that used by IA. This will make it easier for governments to engage with industry across the board.”
Sunbury Line upgrade kicks off with stations contract
Work will start within weeks on the first package of works awarded for the $2.1 billion Sunbury rail line upgrade in Melbourne. Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan last week announced that John Holland, CPB Contractors, AECOM and Metro Trains Melbourne had been awarded the contract for a $215 million package of works to extend platforms, boost accessibility and build new stabling at stations.
The works will pave the way for the Government’s fleet of 65 new high-capacity metro trains (HCMTs) to run all the way to Sunbury when the Metro Tunnel is finished in 2025.
The Metro Tunnel will connect the Cranbourne-Pakenham line and the Sunbury line, creating space in the city loop for more services across Melbourne.
The HCMTs will be 20 per cent bigger than current trains on the metropolitan network, reducing congestion and carrying more passengers with every trip.
The Government says the bigger trains, coupled with the Metro Tunnel, will enable an extra 113,000 peak hour passengers on the Sunbury line each week and slash their journey times by up to 40 minutes a day.
Westport Taskforce positions Kwinana at the centre of Perth’s freight future
In WA, the independent Westport Taskforce last week released its shortlist of five port and supply chain options for managing Perth's growing long-term freight requirements, all of which feature a new port being established in the Kwinana Outer Harbour.
Westport's evidence-based assessments ranked 25 different options featuring the ports at Fremantle, Bunbury and Kwinana. Three shortlisted options feature container operations - all of which are currently managed at Fremantle - being moved to a new port in Kwinana, while two more propose sharing the container-handling task between Fremantle and Kwinana, or transitioning over a longer period of time.
Several Fremantle-only options were assessed in Westport's process but rated poorly due to significant economic and social impediments. The analysis reinforced that a standalone Fremantle Inner Harbour would not stack up in the medium to long-term, even with Roe 8 and 9.
Westport highlights that even when factoring in a range of major road corridor upgrades worth billions of dollars, the Fremantle Inner Harbour's transport network will reach capacity by the mid-2030s - meaning planning and design of an Outer Harbour must start now.
Building a new port may take up to ten years to deliver, making the work of Westport crucial to determining the best long-term solution.
Westport also assessed four Bunbury options, but distance from Perth, high capital costs and port depth constraints prevented them from making the shortlist.
Westport is now focused on the next stages of its process, which will determine the top-performing option for the State's long-term requirements. The detailed timings, location, scale and costs of the new port will also be confirmed.
No keys to this future: millennials ditch cars for transit
Millennials in Australia are taking longer to get a driving licence and using public transport more, according to findings from an international study led by Monash University.
The recently released study is the first to compare the travel behaviour of young adults at different life stages and income levels in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities – Melbourne, Brisbane, London, New York and Atlanta. Other
Researchers from Monash University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oxford, University of Leeds and Georgia Institute of Technology collaborated on the study, published in the international journal Cities.
All cities, apart from New York, recorded a substantial increase in transit kilometres taken by millennials over the past 10 to 15 years – with Brisbane the highest at 66 per cent and Melbourne increasing strongly by 45 per cent.
Although auto travel by young adults in Brisbane increased slightly over time (16 per cent), auto kilometres travelled in Melbourne was almost the same as it was in the early 1990s. This may reflect the steady decrease in young Victorians getting a driving licence, from 76 per cent in 2000 to 57 per cent in 2018.
“At this rate, only half of 18 to 23-year-olds in Melbourne will get a licence by 2025,” said Dr Alexa Delbosc, lead researcher and Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering at Monash University.
“The transport patterns of young people partly emerge from wider economic, social, environmental and political trends affecting the population at large.
“But equally important, our study suggests that investments in transit infrastructure are critical if we want to see young people turn away from car travel.”