Challenging role for Infrastructure Australia

By: Jason Whittaker


Infrastructure Australia must focus on a wide-ranging reform agenda if it is to solve Australia’s transport infrastructure bottlenecks, according to

Infrastructure Australia must focus on a wide-ranging reform agenda if it is to solve Australia’s transport infrastructure bottlenecks, according to leading consultancy firm Port Jackson Partners.

The firm’s director, Rod Sims, has flagged a challenging, but important, task for Infrastructure Australia. He says the government body should develop regulations to create a national freight market and work to "end rules that see, for example, Port Botany unable to accept most trucks other than at times of peak road congestion".

In doing so, he says the taskforce needs to examine all aspects of the supply chain and, as well as addressing bottlenecks, needs to determine why they have arisen and why they have remained in place for so long.

"While the queues of ships off our coal ports gain the headlines we should equally focus on truck trailer parked on the side of roads outside our main cities due to a lack of intermodal facilities, inadequate general cargo port capacity, poor access to ports for heavy vehicles, inadequate roads such as the Pacific Highway and under-investment in rail lines," he says.

Sims says the task before Infrastructure Australia will be the challenge of balancing the need to remove bottlenecks as well as focusing on project identification.

The challenge is made greater, he says, because the plight of transport has been ignored for too long by governments, which means required changes that must be introduced across the whole of the supply chain will be difficult to implement.

He did, however, express hope that the election of the Rudd Government has paved the way for significant reform initiatives in the form of Infrastructure Australia as well as the Government’s commitment to use the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to drive co-ordinated changes in the industry.

Sims’ claims formed part of a speech he delivered at the Melbourne Institute during the New Agenda for Prosperity initiative held by the institute and The Australian.

During his presentation, Sims also highlighted policy challenges as another area crippling the industry.

He supports a move to mass and distance-based truck user charges, saying it will result in greater freight efficiency, such as in the case of wheat crops, because governments will open up the road network to heavier vehicles.

"Governments are reluctant to allow trucks on the roads to transport the grain as they do not pay for the damage they cause, yet low trucks charges make rail freight unviable," he says.

Sims also called for the "serious consideration of congestion charging" to reduce urban congestion, adding any revenue gained from such a tax should be used to fund improvements in public transport.

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