Research could provide missing road link, ARRB conference hears

By: Paul Howell


More research funds could be the answer to the budget pressures facing road authorities.

Research could provide missing road link, ARRB conference hears
Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney professor David Hensher

 

It is a tough time to be in charge of roads, no matter how big the jurisdiction.

Despite traffic increasing and freight demands growing at the same time as stagnant or declining budgets, road authorities in Australia and New Zealand are still expected to have the same output, but with far fewer resources, the Australian Road Research Board’s (ARRB) conference heard this week.

Keynote speakers to the event’s opening ceremony on October 20 articulated the value that extra research funding could bring.

ARRB chairman Les Wielinga says technology and network analytics provide valuable data sets that could ensure more efficient allocation of funds and resources if collected and analysed effectively.

New low-cost all-weather road-making innovations and a long-term study on pavement performance on the Pacific and Monaro highways could also help state authorities do more with less.

Authorities should also consider the models they use to prioritise and select projects, director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney professor David Hensher says.

He presented a new system for doing exactly that, the MetroScan.

It aims to provide "relevant special and socio-economic detail for project and policy prioritising" as well as "advice on projects and policies that show great merit".

Deputy director-general of Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads Mike Stapleton says statistics show the extent of the research gap in road maintenance across Australia.

He notes that Queensland spends only 0.07 per cent of its road program investment on research and development.

That is likely to be one reason behind the infrastructure sector’s stagnant productivity rates, he says, citing a Productivity Commission draft report that has found there has been no improvement in productivity across the sector in the last 10 years.

"Technology and innovation have a major role in productivity improvement," he says.

He says research priorities for the coming years should include business-driven research into what is working internationally, the impacts of ageing strategic infrastructure in Australia, improving investment decision-making and ensuring research is credible and nationally accepted.

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