Saturday, July 14, 2012
In its 2012 update of infrastructure priorities, the federal government's independent infrastructure adviser again warns Australians they need to embrace ''user pays'' pricing for roads or end up with second-rate infrastructure.
The report says all infrastructure is ultimately paid for by taxpayers or users. Since big road projects can be easily financed by users, it says, future road projects should be built as toll roads, leaving taxpayers to finance other needs, such as railways and hospitals.
In another controversial finding, it urges the federal and state governments to allow 36.5 metre-long B-triple trucks on the Hume Highway, saying this would lift freight productivity. Infrastructure Australia puts the Melbourne metro rail project and a similar scheme in Brisbane at the top of its priority list as Australia's most urgently needed projects.
Also up there is a further rollout of IT equipment to monitor conditions on the Monash Freeway so motorists have instant updates, and upgrading the rest of the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane to a freeway.
The east-west link, which the Baillieu government calls its top transport priority, made it to the second rung of priorities, being rated as one of 20 projects with ''real potential'' to address ''a nationally significant issue''.
Its ranking implies that governments should pay for a full study of the project. Victorian Treasurer Kim Wells declared victory and ramped up his demand for the Gillard government to put $30 million into developing a business case for the controversial link.
The report's backing came at an embarrassing time for Labor, just a week before the Melbourne byelection.
The Greens oppose the project but Labor is divided, with influential Labor figures saying the city needs to link its key freeways.
The 18-kilometre project would start from the Western Ring Road in Sunshine, cut through the western suburbs and over the Maribyrnong, then run in a tunnel under the inner northern suburbs to link up with the Eastern Freeway. ''Julia Gillard must ignore the opposition of Daniel Andrews and the state Labor Party, who clearly don't care about the jobs and investment this project will bring to Victoria,'' Mr Wells said. It is assumed the project would be built as a toll road.
But an earlier version failed a cost/benefit analysis and with six-lane urban road tunnels now costing $600 million a kilometre, some believe the government will have to scale down its ambitions to make it a paying proposition. Infrastructure Australia refused to support the Baillieu government's request to finance a study into a rail link to Avalon Airport. It also passed over a request for funding to study removing level crossings.
Infrastructure Australia chairman Sir Rod Eddington said the community must ''look hard and long at our future infrastructure needs and the sorts of cities and regions we want to live in''.
''Our communities deserve appropriate, well-functioning infrastructure and we need to examine ways to provide these assets at least cost to the community,'' Sir Rod said.