Industry gives new IA priorities additions a tick

Regional road infrastructure focus welcomed warmly

Industry gives new IA priorities additions a tick
Sam Marks


The Infrastructure Australia Priority List 2020 gained all but universal praise from national and state transport and logistics bodies at a time when cynicism around funding decisions politicians make has never been higher.  

Australian Trucking Association

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is particularly positive about the new list’s focus on upgrades to urban and regional roads to boost safety and address congestion, and improvements to rural, regional and remote freight routes. 

"The 2020 Infrastructure Australia Priority List has illustrated the importance of evidence-based infrastructure investment decisions and called for road improvements that would have significant safety benefits," ATA transport and infrastructure adviser Sam Marks says. 

"In early 2019, the ATA called for the priority list to have a stronger focus on regional and remote roads, so we welcome the 2020 list and its new initiatives that would address a number of important regional routes,"

The attention on the road maintenance backlog, with a new initiative for a national road maintenance strategy, is praised. 

"Early maintenance on roads can significantly reduce future costs, and deliver better roads," Marks says.

"This strategy would include a review of road conditions and prioritise the fixing of roads in poor condition using a structured, evidence-based process."

The ATA also welcomed the inclusion of new priority projects that have had business cases assessed, and would deliver road capacity and improve freight connectivity. 

 "When combined with existing initiatives and projects, the priority list presents governments with a comprehensive and evidence-based infrastructure agenda," Marks says.

"The ATA encourages governments to prioritise these projects and the further development of business cases to ensure an evidence-based approach to infrastructure investment result in better roads on the ground."

Australian Logistics Council

The ALC is a long-term fan of the AI and its work

"Experience has shown that inclusion on the Infrastructure Priority List can be a catalyst for securing investment in critical projects and progressing initiatives vital to Australia’s economic interests and enhancing the liveability of our communities," ALC CEO Kirk Coningham says.

"IA’s rigorous, independent assessment process means governments, investors and the wider community can have confidence that investing in the projects and initiatives contained on the list will address genuine economic and social needs.

"The National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, first included on the list in 2016, is an obvious example. ALC is pleased the Strategy remains as a High Priority Initiative on this year’s list, with a renewed focus underscoring the importance of its implementation phase.

"It is especially pleasing to see a high degree of alignment between projects and initiatives contained on the Infrastructure Priority List and priorities reflected in the National Action Plan associated with the Strategy. Among these are:

  • completing the Port Botany freight rail line duplication
  • constructing the North East Link in Melbourne to alleviate traffic congestion and enhance freight efficiency
  • preserving a corridor for a dedicated freight rail connection from Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane
  • completing the Adelaide North-South corridor upgradeiInvesting in road and rail improvements for the Burnie to Hobart freight corridor
  • upgrading road connections and road capacity for Moorebank Intermodal Terminal and Western Sydney Airport
  • implementation of the Advanced Train Management System on the ARTC network
  • improving mobile telecommunications in regional and rural areas to enhance the safety and efficiency of freight operations.

ALC notes that the Sydney Gateway remains listed as a High Priority Initiative which will allow "port traffic to avoid local arterial roads".

"As ALC and industry groups have previously observed, this objective can only be fully realised if the NSW Government reinstates dedicated access ramps for heavy vehicles at Canal Road in the design for the project," it says.

Victorian Transport Association

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) echoes the ATA’s feelings, particularly the priority given to upgrading and maintaining roads around Australia.

"It is encouraging that Infrastructure Australia has heeded the calls of the transport industry to encourage all levels of government to make road improvements a high priority," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"A safe, reliable and efficient road transport network is absolutely essential for our economy to continue to grow and prosper.

"For Infrastructure Australia to acknowledge this by prioritising maintenance and improvements regional and urban roads shows that they get the contribution of the transport industry to our national economy." 

Read about the freight paths that AI focuses on in its 2020 list here

The VTA also underlines the importance of sticking to exper advice.

"We encourage the Commonwealth and state governments to heed the advice of Infrastructure Australia, which was established to provide independent advice to government on prioritising infrastructure expenditure, and move quickly to implement their recommendations," Anderson says.

Anderson highlights two projects priorities in Victoria that would improve cycling access to Melbourne’s CBD and improve public transport connectivity in Frankston.

"Any project that encourages greater use of public transport is beneficial to the transport industry because it takes cars off the road, which reduces congestion," he says.

"Greater investments in rail projects are welcome news for the transport industry in Victoria because every sector of the supply chain – including road transport operators – benefits from more widespread use of intermodal transport."

Western Roads Federation

With Western Australia gaining strong IA attention, the Western Roads Federation (WRF) backs strongly the addition of WA’s regional road projects, its initial comments landing on two of them.

"The addition of Great Northern Highway improvements between Broome and Kununurra is timely, given the road transport industry [flooding] alerts sent out yesterday," WRF CEO Cam Dumesny says.

"Single lane bridges, narrow roads have long posed serious road safety concerns to the industry in addition to the vulnerability of the highway to closure due to wet season impacts.

"We congratulate Main Roads WA and the WA government for putting forward this initiative."

But perhaps the warmest welcome comes to the maintenance backlog and preventative maintenance effort IA highlights

"Infrastructure Australia must be commended on giving road maintenance a high priority Dumesny says.

"As its 2019 audit identified underspending, short funding cycles and other factors have helped create a maintenance backlog.

"The backlog of poor road maintenance creates a road safety risk for our industry as well as reducing productivity."

Port of Newcastle

 Infrastructure Australia’s announcement today prioritising the development of suitable East Coast deepwater container port facilities should come as music to the ears of internationally-trading businesses across the country, according to Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody.

AI noted the need for "a network of deep water ports" along the east coast to accommodate large ships that are currently unable to visit due to port constraints, marking the issue as a "priority initiative".

Carmody sees Infrastructure Australia as "correctly" identifying a major deficiency in the nation’s preparedness for ever-larger ships, noting problems on both the wharfside and the landside.

"The data is clear – shipping lines around the world have stopped building the ships that Australia’s ports are designed to accommodate," Carmody says.

"While IA correctly notes that no Australian port can accommodate the larger, more energy-efficient ships carrying more than 14,000 TEUs, it is also critical to examine the constraints to existing road and rail infrastructure in handling the nation’s current and future trade volumes.

"Australia is left unable to reap the benefits of potential cost reductions and efficiency opportunities across the supply chain because its ports are designed for ships that peaked in popularity at a time when Cathy Freeman was winning the Sydney 400 metres and the Y2K bug was the biggest threat to their operation.

"The world has moved on – ports overseas are now handling ships of more than 20,000 TEU [twenty-foot equivalent units] at a time when Australia’s ports celebrate inefficiently accommodating a ship less than half that size, in some cases having to turn the ship around at the berth to reach containers stacked on the opposite side.

"For a nation that moves 98 per cent of its international trade by sea, being unresponsive to these global trends leaves Australia’s competitiveness and consumers disproportionately exposed."

Infrastructure Australia is set to examine the issue, including understanding the challenge of channel deepening at existing ports, development of new port locations and enhanced landside access infrastructure at ports.

It has also flagged the need to examine the option of developing "a container port facility that can accommodate the largest ships as a transhipment port for other destinations within Australia".

The Infrastructure Australia prioritisation announcement follows detailed analysis# by Houston Kemp Economists in 2019.

Carmody notes Port of Newcastle was ready to build a new 2 million TEU container terminal, subject to the removal of a $100 per TEU penalty that currently applies due to NSW government’s deeply controversial ports policy, the implementation of which is now being contested in court.

"We continue to pursue productive discussions with all levels of government to achieve an outcome that unlocks $2 billion of private investment in NSW and spawns the significant associated economic benefits for our state," he says

"This is about Australia’s international competitiveness and the future of the Hunter and NSW – it is too important to be politicised or caught in endless rounds of legal argy bargy.

"We need to get on with building this infrastructure to ensure Australia does not remain caught in an international competitiveness time-warp and so the Hunter region and its port can diversify."


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