Evaluation of the business case for Haughton River Upgrade Project

21 December 2017

Infrastructure Australia has not included the Haughton River Floodplain Upgrade Project, as it is currently scoped, to the Infrastructure Priority List following assessment of the business case.

CEO, Philip Davies said that while Infrastructure Australia considers it important to improve connectivity, safety and resilience on this nationally significant road corridor, the costs of upgrading this section of the Bruce Highway currently outweigh the benefits.

“The Bruce Highway is part of the National Land Transport Network and plays an important role in facilitating freight and passenger vehicle movements along the Queensland coast.

“Infrastructure Australia recognises that improving connectivity on the Bruce Highway is strategically important. In the last two years alone, we have supported upgrades to multiple sections of the Bruce Highway, including the Cooroy to Curra upgrade, the Mackay Ring Road, and the Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway upgrade.

“However, our analysis shows that the cost of this project, as scoped in this business case, outweighs the benefits,” Mr Davies said.

The proposed project aims to upgrade a 13.5-kilometre section of the Bruce Highway which crosses the Haughton River floodplain between Ayr and Townsville. This includes the replacement of a narrow, low level bridge at the Haughton River, which is susceptible to flooding events about once every two years.

The high project costs are driven by a flood immunity standard that is higher than can be justified on a section of the Bruce Highway with relatively low traffic volumes.

Infrastructure Australia also identified a number of issues with the calculation of economic benefits that, when taken together, overstate the expected overall benefits.

“Infrastructure Australia would welcome the submission of an updated business case with a re-specified solution that addresses our concerns about the capital cost of the project, and the way the benefits have been calculated. This would ensure that the connectivity, safety and resilience outcomes that are the objective of the project are met at an appropriate cost to taxpayers.” Mr Davies said.

Infrastructure Australia is the nation's independent infrastructure advisor.