SA BUDGET 08/09: Government invests in road but cuts in rail and road safety

By: Jason Whittaker

The Rann Government is championing its investment in transport and infrastructure despite the fact the majority of funds will come

The Rann Government is championing its investment in transport and infrastructure despite the fact the majority of funds will come from the Federal Government and rail transport and road safety funding has been cut.

In unveiling the Budget, Treasurer Kevin Foley outlined a four-year plan to ramp up critical transport infrastructure investment to meet the burgeoning freight task.

The Government will invest $10.3 billion in capital projects, of which $564 million will be spent on the Northern Expressway, to be finished in December 2010, and $118 million on the South Road Underpass, which is to be completed by the end of next year.

The Budget outlines an investment of almost $378 million over four years in the State’s arterial roads, such as the Dukes Highway and the North-South corridor study. Almost $253 million, or moer than 66 percent, will come from the Rudd Government under AusLink.

According to Budget papers, the Rann Government will invest $27.1 million in heavy vehicle freight routes over four years aimed at improving intersections, railway level crossings and overtaking lanes.

"The Budget also provides $24.9 million over three years for the upgrade of the Victor Harbor Road-South Road and Diagonal Road-Morphett Road intersections," the Budget papers say.

The State is also to invest $48.3 million in road shoulder sealing, level crossing upgrades and the shielding of road hazards such as trees over a four-year period.

"This budget outlines a significant transport investment program," Foley says.

The downside to this investment, Foley says, is that net debt will increase from $82 million in 2008 to $1.983 billion in 2012. And the cutback in rail transport means funding will fall from $16 million this year to $13 million next year.

Furthermore, community road safety funding provided to local governments will be slashed in half from $40,000 to $20,000.

Despite this, Foley says "the legacy of the Rann Labor Government will be the rebuilding of the State’s infrastructure".

Regional roads programs will, for instance, maintain the same levels of funding, with the Government to continue its $700,000 investment in 2008 and 2009. And the State’s Black Spot Program—Safer Local Roads initiative will receive an extra $60,000 as funding climbs to $2.46 million.

And as new regulations in the transport industry take effect, $4.7 million will be spent over four year on chain of responsibility legislation and the Intelligent Access Program (IAP).

The Budget papers also noted the Federal Government’s $22.3 billion AusLink commitment will result in an expenditure increase of $1 million a year for South Australia so it can match the funding of each program on an agreed basis.

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