Backing for new Infrastructure Australia priorities list

NatRoad and SAFC applaud focus on tackling maintenance backlog

Backing for new Infrastructure Australia priorities list
Warren Clark


Infrastructure Australia’s (IA's) 2021 Priority List is gaining industry organisation plaudits.

So far, the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has welcomed the particular focus on road maintenance and the South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) backs recognition in the national Infrastructure Priority List (IPL) of "the critical infrastructure needs" facing its state.

"Infrastructure Australia has rightly pointed to the fact that the cost of maintaining roads in Australia is growing and the overall maintenance backlog is increasing. Regular feedback from NatRoad members confirms this finding," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

"Infrastructure Australia highlights that Australia’s road network faces increasing demands from a growing population.

"Total vehicle kilometres travelled grew on average by 1.95 per cent per annum between 1998 and 2018.

"The size of the network is also growing, with the expansion of existing roads and the construction of new ones.

"But there is a limited link between funding for road services and the actual use of roads, particularly given the deficiencies in the heavy vehicle charging model currently under scrutiny by the National Transport Commission.

"There are also significant funding challenges for ongoing maintenance, particularly where the capital expenditure of new roads is, but future maintenance is not. This disconnect must end with whole-of-lifecycle considerations brought to bear in funding models.

"Infrastructure Australia recommends a three step approach to a re-examination of road maintenance which NatRoad endorses:

  • A comprehensive review of road condition across Australia (which NatRoad suggests could link with the Government’s current work on service level standards for roads)
  • Prioritising and fixing roads in poor condition using a structured and evidence-based process
  • Considering reform options including road regulatory reform and more structural reforms such as road-user charging (noting that consideration of Heavy Vehicle Road Reform is currently underway).

Read how IA's priorities list was greeted this time last year, here

SAFC has long advocated for state projects that it sees as having been ignored or underplayed for too long.

It notes that inclusion on the IPL is especially important in the lead-up to May 2021’s expected federal ‘election’ Budget.

"We are greatly relieved that Infrastructure Australia has finally discovered SA - adding several new South Australian initiatives to the IPL," SAFC executive officer Evan Knapp says.

"In particular, the SAFC welcomes four new transport infrastructure initiatives – all of which are freight council priorities, as outlined in our submission to the SA 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy," Knapp says.

"The Higher Productivity Freight Network initiative will allow larger trucks to safely access main highways – cutting freight costs and reducing the total number of trucks on our roads. Cutting freight costs means a bigger profit for freight generating businesses, which leads to economic growth and more jobs.

"The Outer Ring Route Capacity Improvements initiative will look at the critical link between Adelaide’s South Eastern Freeway and the under construction North South Corridor – an initiative designed to pre-empt traffic flow change impacts expected to appear in 2030.

"The SAFC has also long argued for a level crossing removal program in SA – mirroring the success of a similar project over the border in Victoria. This improves safety, and offers congestion reduction benefits for both the freight industry and commuters.

"Most importantly, road maintenance and road condition are finally firmly on the IPL agenda.

"This offers hope that SA’s $800 million plus road maintenance backlog will be rapidly addressed, with Commonwealth support. The SAFC has been advocating for almost 20 years for improvements in our road conditions, so to see this recognised as a ‘High Priority Initiative’ is extremely gratifying."

Knapp adds the SAFC could now look forward to both the SA and federal budgets – both ‘election’ budgets – and called on the Marshall and Morrison Governments "to bring these productive infrastructure initiatives for South Australia to the forefront of budgeted plans for a potential new term of government."

IA chair Julieanne Alroe says the new list highlights opportunities to develop gateways to support our international competitiveness, "a priority for Australia as we recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic".

These include:

  • Western Sydney Freight Line and Intermodal Terminal
  • Rail access to melbourne’s Webb Dock
  • Australian Marine Complex infrastructure capacity in Western Australia
  • Port of Burnie Hobart Port precinct capacity
  • Common-user infrastructure at the Middle Arm Precinct near Darwin.

The IPL can be found here.


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