Corridor protection gets the IA treatment

Ongoing issue refuses to go away as Infrastructure Australia weighs in

Corridor protection gets the IA treatment
The cover of the corridor protection report


Infrastructure Australia (IA) has issued a clarion call to Australian governments to focus on future transport needs and reserve corridor land accordingly.

Rather than let future generations be burdened with unwanted and avoidable extra costs, IA’s report, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, urges decision makers to plan properly.

"Improving long-term infrastructure planning is an important means of lowering the cost of new infrastructure," the report, which highlights seven freight-sensitive road and rail paths, all in eastern Australia, states.

"We know that planning the right infrastructure early, timing its delivery to meet demand and ensuring it is fit for purpose enhances economic opportunity and saves money.

"This is particularly true when it comes to identifying and protecting infrastructure corridors.

"Done well, corridor protection reduces the future financial costs of delivering infrastructure, while minimising the social costs of acquiring homes and businesses, and disrupting existing communities.

"It minimises the chance that infrastructure will need to be delivered in expensive tunnels; it protects against a scenario where critical infrastructure goes undelivered as a result of prohibitive costs."

Strategic corridors IA identifies are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.

"Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision. As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase," IA chairman Mark Birrell says.

"Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations.

The report notes successful examples from the second half of last century, such as the M4, M5 and parts of the M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne, the Mandurah rail line and Kwinana Freeway in Perth, and the O-Bahn in Adelaide.

And while it observes that, more recently, "governments have been less active in protecting new corridors", it approves of some efforts in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

In its findings, the report advises that the Australian Government, in partnership with state and territory governments, "establish effective corridor protection mechanisms to ensure the timely preservation of surface, subterranean and air corridors, and strategic sites, for future infrastructure priorities". 

The mechanism should include:

  • long-term strategic planning and project development work to identify corridors and lands
  • a stable and independent governance framework
  • shared financial responsibility between the Australian Government and its state and territory counterparts.

While AI highlights the proposed High Speed Rail project as being in need of greater focus, not to mention tunnels, it advocates future corridor identification, not least in rural areas and for freight.

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) urged governments to take advantage of what it describes as a "powerful endorsement of corridor protection".

"ALC has consistently worked to highlight the necessity of corridor preservation as part of a consistent and coherent approach to developing Australia’s national freight infrastructure," ALC MD Michael Kilgariff says.

"Good planning leads to good infrastructure outcomes for the community. Preserving corridors to accommodate the infrastructure needed to meet our future freight task lies at the heart of responsible planning policy."

"This new policy paper from IA adds to the weight of evidence demonstrating just how vital corridor preservation is. Making the right decisions today not only helps to reduce the cost of infrastructure projects in the future, but also avoids community conflict and social dislocation by providing certainty as to land use."

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