Infrastructure Australia has released its 2019 Infrastructure Priority List, which identifies 121 nationally significant projects and proposes a record $58 billion pipeline to address congestion, liveability and economic growth.
Infrastructure Australia Chair, Julieanne Alroe, said the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List is the largest, most comprehensive and most diverse list of investments identified by the organisation to meet the challenges of the future.
“With a record 121 nationally significant proposals and a $58 billion project pipeline, the Priority List will guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment,” Ms Alroe said.
“The 2019 Priority List provides a credible pipeline of nationally significant proposals for governments at all levels to choose from.
“As an evidence-based list of opportunities to improve both our living standards and productivity, the Priority List reflects the diversity of Australia’s future infrastructure needs across transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education.”
25 new infrastructure proposals had been included in this year’s publication, with the 2019 Priority List identifying a total of eight High Priority Projects, ten Priority Projects, 29 High Priority Initiatives and 74 Priority Initiatives.
Developed using data from the Australian Infrastructure Audit and submissions from state and territory governments, industry and the community, including more than 100 submissions in the last year, the 2019 Priority List provides all levels of government with a list of infrastructure investment opportunities for the near, medium and longer term.
‘Projects’ are advanced proposals that have a fully developed business case that has been positively assessed by the independent Infrastructure Australia Board.
‘Initiatives’ are proposals that have been identified to potentially address a nationally significant problem or opportunity, but require further development and rigorous assessment to determine if they are the most appropriate solution.
The High Priority and Priority Projects on the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List are worth a combined total of record $58 billion.
Key focus areas
“Many of the projects and potential infrastructure solutions identified in the 2019 Priority List respond to the challenges of population growth in our largest cities, and address the need for frequent and accessible public transport to reduce congestion and maintain Australia’s world-renowned liveability,” Ms Alroe said.
“Congestion in our cities and faster-growing regional centres not only has significant consequences for the Australian economy, but has direct impacts on communities, reducing people’s access to education, health services, employment and other opportunities.”
A number of inclusions on the 2019 Priority List focus on getting the most out of existing infrastructure through the use of smart technology, such as Intelligent Transport Systems.
“This includes projects such as the Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2 and North East Link in Victoria, the Regency Road to Pym Street section of Adelaide’s North–South Corridor, and a proposal to improve the performance and efficiency of motorways in the Sydney CBD,” Ms Alroe said.
“The 2019 Priority List identifies regional road safety improvements as a national priority. Between 2008 and 2016, more than half of Australia’s road fatalities occurred in our regions – meaning that, relative to population size, the fatality rate was more than four times greater than for major cities.
“Infrastructure deficiencies certainly have a role to play in causing accidents, and the expected increase in heavy freight vehicles on our roads could lead to further fatalities. Given the scale of the problem, governments should prioritise investment in high-risk sections of regional roads across Australia.”
Ms Alroe added that an important challenge faced across the country, and requiring coordinated action by all levels of government, is the provision of quality housing for Australians living in remote areas.
“Overcrowding and poor-quality housing in remote communities impacts on health and safety, education and employment outcomes, and has been identified by Infrastructure Australia as an investment priority that should be progressed by governments in the near term,” she said.
Technological change and its role in driving significant shifts in infrastructure demand is another key focus of the 2019 Priority List.
“Many of this year’s new additions to the Priority List reflect the need for forward-thinking, ambitious solutions to support Australia’s future prosperity – such as the delivery of a national electric vehicle fast-charging network, which has been identified as a High Priority Initiative,” Ms Alroe said.
The advent of electric vehicles, along with automation, growth in the ‘sharing economy’ and technological connectivity, could bring the largest transformation the transport sector has seen since the shift from steam to diesel locomotives.
“The increase in electric vehicle uptake will forge links between the energy and transport network that did not previously exist, placing additional demands on the grid and pressure on consumer costs. The 2019 Priority List highlights the need for investment in the connectivity and reliability of our National Electricity Market in the medium to long term, and optimisation in the near term.”
The industry responds
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said the Priority List highlights the continued need for targeted investment in freight infrastructure projects that will enhance supply chain efficiency and safety, and make Australia more internationally competitive.
ALC Chair, Philip Davies, said that past Infrastructure Priority Lists have helped to build support for investment in critical freight infrastructure projects which are now being undertaken, including Western Sydney Airport, Inland Rail and the Port Botany freight rail duplication.
“It is especially pleasing to note this year’s list again includes the development of a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy as a high priority initiative.”
“Australia must do everything possible to eliminate capacity constraints in our freight networks if we wish to succeed in an increasingly competitive global market. Securing investment in these priority projects will help to deliver that outcome.”
The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has welcomed the Priority List’s strong attention to rail freight.
ARA CEO, Danny Broad, said the rail projects included by Infrastructure Australia are important nation-building initiatives and are endorsed by the rail sector.
“Pleasingly, there are more rail projects and initiatives in the report compared to the 2018 Infrastructure Priority List, with 54 of the 125 projects and initiatives rail-related,” he said.
Mr Broad said that the significance of these rail projects identified in the Priority List warrants investment from governments at all levels.
“A High Priority Initiative of particular note is the Network Optimisation Program – Rail. This involves a program of work focussed on addressing capacity constraints and improving service levels on existing urban and regional passenger and freight networks, doubling their ‘bang for the buck’ because they reduce the need for large scale capital investment,” he said.
Mr Broad stressed that maximising the economic benefits of the projects and initiatives in the Infrastructure Priority List relies heavily on Australia having the skilled labour available to construct, operate and maintain them.
Ports Australia also congratulated Infrastructure Australia on prioritising the challenges of congestion, liveability, safety, regional growth, and supporting a healthy economy.
Ports Australia Chief Executive, Mike Gallacher, said a focus on improving connectivity to ports around the country to facilitate coastal shipping is critical to reducing congestion in our cities.
“Improved connectivity to the country’s ports allows a more efficient flow of freight to and from the port gate. This, in turn, reduces congestion, makes roads safer, and lowers the cost of living through cheaper freight,” Mr Gallacher said.
“It’s incredibly encouraging to see projects like the Port Botany Rail duplication, Port of Brisbane dedicated freight rail, freight rail access to Port Kembla, and the Port of Gladstone land and sea upgrade identified in this year’s priority list.”
Mr Gallacher stressed the importance of a national strategy for freight and supply chains, saying that smart freight and smart infrastructure go hand in hand.
“The value waiting to be unlocked by a renewed focus on shipping to move more non-time specific freight is vast and diverse,” he said.
Australian Airports Association Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Wilkie, said the List’s observation that the infrastructure sector must do more than “just keeping pace with demand” confirmed the value of smart investment to meet the long term needs of the economy and community.
“Continued investment in our national aviation network is more important than ever as demand for air travel grows and technology evolves,” Ms Wilkie said.
“Australian airports plan to invest $20.6 billion over the next ten years in airport improvements to meet this need as they continue to enhance the customer experience for passengers and airlines.”
Federal Government response
The Federal Government has welcomed the release of the Priority List, acknowledging Infrastructure Australia’s independent assessment and analysis.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said said the Priority List will provide strategic advice and guidance to both state and federal decision-makers about the nation’s ongoing infrastructure needs.
“Strategic advice and expert planning is critical to help guide the Australian Government’s 10-year, $75 billion infrastructure plan where nation-building projects are; enhancing transport connectivity; underpinning economic growth; and helping Australians arrive home sooner and safer,” Mr McCormack said.
Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, Alan Tudge, said Infrastructure Australia’s call for more coordinated action on major infrastructure initiatives was a sensible approach.
“This includes projects in Australia’s biggest capital cities as well as those that promote growth and accessibility in regional communities.”
Mr Tudge said the Federal Government is already supporting key projects on the list, including $2 billion for Melbourne’s Monash Freeway and North East Link projects; $350 million for Perth’s METRONET rail link; and $177 million towards Adelaide’s North-South Corridor upgrade.
He said the Government has successfully negotiated with state and local governments to finalise City Deals for Townsville, Launceston, Western Sydney and Darwin, and is negotiating similar deals for Hobart, Geelong, South-East Queensland and Perth.
“These City Deals involve projects specifically designed to make Australia’s cities quicker, safer and easier to get around and generally much more pleasant places to live.”
Priority List essential for funding submissions
While Infrastructure Australia advises on national infrastructure priorities and assesses the economic merits of projects with fully-developed business cases, funding decisions are made by governments and the private sector.
With New South Wales and federal elections on the horizon, Infrastructure Australia is urging decision-makers to consult the Infrastructure Priority List before committing funding to a pre-defined project.
“With the release of the 2019 Priority List, and our Infrastructure Decision-making Principles last year, Infrastructure Australia is urging decision-makers to commit to solving any emerging or growing problem by embarking on a feasibility study to identify potential options, rather than a pre-defined project that may not be the most effective solution,” Ms Alroe said.
“Communities rightly expect decisions on public infrastructure projects to be robust, transparent and accountable, and that projects are only committed to once planning and assessment has been done. Infrastructure Australia’s work in developing and maintaining the Priority List supports this.
“We are extremely proud of the work we have done over the past four years to establish a consistent, transparent process for how projects are independently assessed and Australia’s key infrastructure priorities are determined.
“Decision-makers at all levels will best serve all Australians by continuing to consult the Priority List as a source of informed analysis on the projects that represent the best use of our infrastructure funding,” Ms Alroe said.
View the 2019 Infrastructure Priority List here.