Three road projects, two rail projects and an airport are Australia’s top infrastructure needs recommended for funding, according to Infrastructure Australia’s latest priority list, but not every state is happy about the assessment.
The list divides potential investments into “projects” – those that have positively assessed business cases – and “initiatives” – those for which a business case is not yet complete, and then ranks projects as “high priority” or “priority”.
Overall there’s about $55 billion worth of investments across the country, with six high priority projects, six priority projects, 24 high priority initiatives and 60 priority initiatives. Which category a project lands in could affect its potential to attract federal funding.
The top high priority projects are:
- M80 Ring Road upgrade, Victoria
- M4 Motorway upgrade (Parramatta to Lapstone), NSW
- WestConnex, NSW
- Brisbane Metro, Queensland
- Sydney Metro: City and Southwest, NSW
- Western Sydney Airport, NSW
“These are the strategic investments recommended by the independent Infrastructure Australia board to best meet the connectivity needs of Australia’s growing cities, strengthen our global role as an exporter of goods and services and make our infrastructure more resilient,” Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said.
“With this updated evidence base, governments at all levels can embrace the opportunities in the short, medium and long term to deliver better infrastructure services for all Australians.”
Concerns have been raised, however, as to the split of projects across states, as well as the transport modes selected.
In Victoria, premier Daniel Andrews said the list showed that Infrastructure Australia was taking a Sydney-centric approach to investment.
“I do find it a little hard to take them particularly seriously when the fastest growing state in our nation is recommended to receive support for 13 projects and NSW is recommended to receive support for, I think, 33,” he said at an event for the West Gate Tunnel road project.
The state’s only high-priority project was the M80 Ring Road upgrade, while the now-canned East West Link was listed as a high priority initiative.
Dr Ian Woodcock from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research took aim at the number of Victorian road projects on the list.
“The projects listed are the tip of a massive road-building iceberg that will lock Melburnians into increasingly toll-paying car dependence,” he said.
“Roads will generate more traffic, needing ever more roads.”
However, he said the list reflected the state of planning across the country.
“NSW is far ahead of Victoria in transport planning – even if not ideal, with many unwarranted megaroad projects – with a vision for a dramatically enhanced urban railway network.”
Dr Woodcock said Victoria lacked a transport plan to meet the needs of future generations, and that more and better public transport and freight rail was needed.
In Queensland, deputy premier Jackie Trad accused Infrastructure Australia of playing politics in listing its Cross River Rail project as an initiative rather than a project. Infrastructure Australia previously rejected the business case submitted, meaning it was not be listed as a project.
“The same transport modelling that was used for Brisbane Metro was used for Beerburrum-to-Nambour was used for Cross River Rail,” Ms Trad said to ABC radio on Tuesday morning.
“It’s the same modelling. It’s the same maths. Infrastructure Australia is just choosing to assess them differently and I say it’s because they’re playing to the tune of their political masters.”
A $1 billion Brisbane City Council-led metro project meanwhile was listed as a high priority project.
Ms Alroe said cities and public transport were major focuses due to a growing population and potential to deliver national productivity gains.
This includes the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade in Queensland, boosting Melbourne rail network capacity, the Gawler line rail upgrade in Adelaide and an idea to boost active transport with a 300km bicycle and walking network across Sydney.
The list was welcomed by the property sector.
“This report provides a clear-eyed report card of how ready we are to build the infrastructure projects our growing cities need, and it’s clear that there is a lot more work to do,” Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison said.
“While the good news is that $25 billion worth of projects are off the list and under construction, there is a lot more planning needed across every city and a lot more investment to be found.
“The report identifies 24 projects as ‘high priority initiatives’, which the project definition and business cases have yet to be done and are therefore years away from starting. A further 60 ‘priority initiatives’ are also identified.”