Wednesday 19th Jun, 2019

IA adds six rail initiatives to Priority List

Photo: Level Crossing Removal Authority

Infrastructure Australia’s newest Infrastructure Priority List has been welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), with six new or updated rail initiatives included.

Capacity on Victoria’s Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines, port access at Melbourne, and connectivity on the Gold Coast and in Perth are all new aspects of the latest List, released on February 14.

The List is compiled by Infrastructure Australia, arranging proposals into early-stage ‘Initiatives’, and ‘Projects’, whose business cases have been approved by Infrastructure Australia, thus recommending them for federal funding.

In all, the ARA counts 54 rail-related projects and initiatives among the 124 on the new list.

“As Australia’s population grows, rail infrastructure will increasingly become the backbone to meet Australia’s growing passenger and freight needs,” ARA chief executive Danny Broad said. “To manage the challenges posed in our cities and regions in the long-term, Australia will need to ensure that it continuously invests in rail infrastructure.”

The list is 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.

Not much has changed at the top end of the list produced on February 14. Three ‘High Priority Projects’ have graduated from the list entirely: New South Wales’ WestConnex road project and Victoria’s Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2 and North East Link projects. No ‘High Priority Projects’ have been added, and no rail-related ‘Priority Projects’ have been added or removed from the list.

Six new rail-related Initiatives are included on the new list, however.

  1. A new Priority Initiative concerns the duplication of eight kilometres of the Cranbourne Line between Dandenong and Cranbourne southeast of Melbourne, which the Andrews Government has already committed $750 million to deliver by 2023.
  2. Another new Priority Initiative is for capacity on the state’s Hurstbridge Line. Before last year’s election the Andrews Government targeted marginal seats with a $530 million proposal to build a new train station at Greensborough, and duplicate sections of track along the line.
  3. An initiative concerning container terminal capacity at Melbourne was updated to include the near-time landside transport initiatives needed to support capacity growth, “including road and rail access from metropolitan, regional and national networks”.
  4. Stage 3A of the Gold Coast’s G:link light rail line was essentially added, listed as ‘Public transport connectivity between Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads’. The Federal Government in November 2018 committed $112 million to the project, and the Queensland Government is progressing with the plan.
  5. Transport connectivity between Morley and Ellenbrook is a new Priority Initiative, the third of Perth’s Metronet urban rail projects added. WA’s Government submitted the Morley-Ellenbrook Line for the list in September, and it joins the Yanchep Rail Extension, a High Priority Project, and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, a Priority Project. Metronet’s Forrestfield-Airport Link was also once on the list, but has graduated.
  6. Also in Perth, a new Priority Initiative is to improve the Canning Bridge public transport interchange, to improve public transport patronage and reduce impact on the adjacent road network. Canning Bridge station is on the Mandurah Line.

Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe described the 2019 list as the independent advisor’s “largest, most comprehensive and most diverse” yet.

“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,” she 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.”

Alroe noted many of the new projects would respond to the challenge of population growth in Australia.

“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,” Alroe said.

Citing the forthcoming NSW and federal elections, Alroe urged politicians to avoid making politically-motivated funding commitments, and to trust the independent advisor’s analysis when making budget decisions.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

One of those decision makers, deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure Michael McCormack, said the Government was now taking this approach.

“Once upon a time there was a ‘build it and they will come’ sort of attitude,” McCormack said when the new list was released. “There were also the political ramifications and implications and benefits of spending money on infrastructure. But the fact remains that we need rigour and accountability around what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and where we’re delivering it.”

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