Chairman's newsletter—July 2017

Taking a long-term view

To get infrastructure planning and delivery right, you must have a long-term focus. There could be no better example of this than when it comes to protecting the corridors Australia needs to provide future railways, roads and utility networks.

Infrastructure Australia has therefore been progressing one of the key recommendations in the Australian Infrastructure Plan, the need to set aside key areas of land for the next generation of major projects.

As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors must be preserved early in their planning to avoid delays, cost overruns and community disruption during the project delivery phase.

If our nation is going to meet its future growth challenges, both a high priority and regular budget allocations need to be given to this vital task.

Protecting vital infrastructure corridors to meet our future growth

Today we released Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, which highlights the case for corridor protection and the public benefit of acting today.

Our report shows that if we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and avoid much of the community disruption that can flow from late acquisition of key sites.

We would also minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government can be up to ten times higher than it would have been.

Protecting nationally significant infrastructure corridors especially means we would limit development encroachment, which has constrained project planning in the past.

Importantly, every dollar saved through early action on corridor protection is another dollar that can be invested back into productivity-enhancing infrastructure to support our future growth as a nation. That's why we are calling for a nation-wide and strategic approach by all levels of government to protect infrastructure corridors.

Early planning to avoid project delivery problems and cut costs

Part of Infrastructure Australia's new Reform Series, the Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term paper shows that protection and early acquisition of just seven corridors identified as national priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion in land purchase and construction costs.

These corridors 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.

The most pressing priority for protection is the east coast High Speed Rail corridor. This critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres and should be a focus for the NSW, Victorian and federal governments.

You can see Infrastructure Australia's recommendation on the high-speed rail corridor in the Australian Infrastructure Plan (p.158) PDF: 6766 KB ReadSpeaker.

high speed rail overview map

High Speed Rail overview map

It's clear that, by deciding to prioritise this work, our governments will deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations.

To put into perspective the gain for taxpayers from protecting the seven corridors, the estimated $11 billion saving is the equivalent of more than two years' spending by the Australian Government on land transport such as major roads, railways and local roads.

We have done it before

State and territory governments historically have shown leadership in protecting infrastructure corridors—with NSW and Victoria being particularly pro-active recently.

The M4, M5 and M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne and the rail line to Mandurah south of Perth are excellent examples where the foresight to protect infrastructure corridors in the past allowed large cities to thrive and accommodate their growing populations.

Experience clearly shows that planning the right infrastructure early, timing delivery to meet demand and ensuring it is fit for purpose enhances economic opportunity and delivers the best community outcomes.

Multi-government action over next 3–5 years

Infrastructure Australia is recommending that a national framework for corridor protection be put in place to guide meaningful action by all levels of government. We need to see results over the next 3–5 years.

A coordinated approach, involving joint governance arrangements to oversee land acquisition, joint funding commitments, and joint agreement regarding land use management measures will keep governments at both levels committed to the urgent task at hand.

Done well, corridor protection will underpin the viability of future infrastructure projects, widen the options for their delivery and save taxpayers billions across the life of the projects. A national framework for corridor protection is necessary to help ensure constant action by each relevant government.

Please access our research paper and details of IA's latest activities and announcements at infrastructureaustralia.gov.au

Mark Birrell, Chairman