Increasing the productivity and efficiency of Australia’s freight supply chain is one of the Australian Government’s priorities in support of Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan.

The government is funding 14 of the 15 priority projects and has expressed support for 69 of the independent infrastructure body’s 78 recommendations detailed in its plan, which was updated in November 2016.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, outlined the government’s response to the plan, which sets out priorities and recommendations to increase productivity and support economic growth.

Mr Turnbull said the government would focus on five key initiatives:

  • A greater focus on metropolitan rail in our capital cities by working with state governments to develop urban rail plans for Australia’s five major cities
  • Increased investment in planning and project development work to bring forward business cases for the projects now listed on the Infrastructure Priority List
  • Using incentive payments to drive infrastructure reform at the state and territory level
  • Examining opportunities to streamline infrastructure funding streams to deliver greater efficiency and reduce overlap
  • Working to protect transport corridors and precincts for the future

Mr Turnbull said, “My government is supporting 69 of Infrastructure Australia’s 78 recommendations. We have made significant progress in addressing many of these.

“This priority list will continue to inform a longer-term project pipeline, enabling the certainty that is so critical to attract more private investment in nationally significant public infrastructure.”

“In response to the Infrastructure Australia Plan, we will develop a strategy to increase the productivity and efficiency of Australia’s freight supply chain.”

“This will identify a set of reforms and investments to ensure we have sufficient capacity to meet the growing demand for freight, and improve the efficiency of movements, both road and rail.”

Infrastructure Australia updated its priority list in November 2016, adding to proposed Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek as high priority.

Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive, Philip Davies, said the government’s response was a show of support to the Australian Infrastructure Plan.

“Taking the 2015 Australian Infrastructure Audit as its evidence base, the Australian Infrastructure Plan provided 78 recommendations to address today’s infrastructure gaps and meet the global challenges of tomorrow.

“The government’s response to the plan is an important first step on the journey towards infrastructure reform, and we will continue to provide robust, independent advice on how these reforms should be progressed.

“We are particularly pleased to see the Government commit to progressing the important issue of road market reform and developing a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.”

Mr Davies said it was clear that the current funding model to build and maintain Australian roads was inefficient, unsustainable and unfair.

“We advocated for fuel excise and registration fees to be abolished, and road users to only be charged for what they use. We are therefore pleased to see the government commit to an independently led process on the potential reform options and models for road market reform.

“We will certainly be making further contributions on the benefits of moving to a fairer, user-pays approach for roads.

“We recognise that changing how we pay and invest in roads will not be easy and this is a long term process, however a better system could deliver secure, sustainable funding for our roads—and better services for users.”

Mr Davies said the plan also highlighted the need for a national freight and supply chain strategy to define nationally significant freight corridors and precincts, identify the network constraints and gaps, and outline a reform and investment pipeline to address these challenges.

Mr Davies said, “We are pleased to see the government commit to deliver a national freight and supply chain strategy.

“The government has also provided a $50 million planning fund for project development work to accelerate planning on major projects to bring forward business cases listed on the Infrastructure Priority List.

“We will also be continuing to refine our business case assessment framework in collaboration with our state and territory colleagues to ensure that it is fit for purpose, best practice and aligned to national and international guidelines,” Mr Davies said.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) welcomed the federal government’s response to the plan, particularly the initiatives  relating to working with state governments to develop urban and peri-urban rail plans in Australia’s five largest cities, and the proposed development of a national freight and supply chain strategy.

ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said the rail industry was encouraged by the federal government’s response.

“The ARA believes passenger rail – both heavy and light rail – can play an even greater role in urban areas and linking this to land use planning is critical,” Mr Broad said.

“The ARA welcomes federal government involvement in this proposal and hopes it will be matched with increased Commonwealth Government infrastructure funding for urban rail, to help the States who are doing the heavy lifting currently,” Mr Broad said.

“The focus on Australia’s freight supply chain productivity and efficiency is pleasing.

“The ARA has noted strong political and community support for getting more freight onto rail and the Commonwealth Government needs to support this through projects such as Inland Rail.”

The ARA also welcomed the federal government’s commitment to continue heavy vehicle road user charging reform and hoped this will support the acceleration of this reform to enable competitive neutrality between road and rail freight.

“Road user charging and investment reform for heavy vehicles has been discussed within governments for a decade.

“The ARA hopes the steps announced will accelerate this matter as reform would deliver more efficient infrastructure investment and use, including reduced congestions in major cities.

“Certainly the indication in the response of an independent price regulator being appointed is welcome news.

“The rail industry is ready and very willing to be involved in working with the federal and state governments on the agreed initiatives where relevant to rail and applauds the federal government’s support for the vast majority of the recommendations in the IA Plan,” Mr Broad said.

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