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The Federal Government has pledged $100 billion in infrastructure investment over the next decade in its 2019-20 Budget, up from $75 million from last year, with road and rail the big winners.
This investment includes $2 billion to help deliver fast rail from Geelong to Melbourne, an increase of $3 billion for the Urban Congestion Fund taking it to $4 billion, a $2.2 billion Road Safety Package and an additional $1 billion for the next phase of the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.
The Government has forecast a surplus of $7.1 billion in 2019-20.
Victoria and Queensland received the biggest investments of $6.1 billion and almost $4 billion respectively.
Rail infrastructure to stimulate regional Australia
Federal Treasurer, Josh Fydenberg, framed the Government’s transport and urban infrastructure investments as part of its future population plan to address overpopulation in cities by facilitating transport to and from regional areas.
“We will deliver new infrastructure projects to ease congestion in our cities; to unlock the potential of our regions; to better manage population growth; to improve safety on our roads,” Mr Frydenberg said in his budget speech.
“Cranes, hard hats and heavy machinery will be seen across the country, as we build Australia for current and future generations.”
The centrepiece of this policy is the $2 billion Melbourne and Geelong fast rail, which makes up the vast majority of the Government’s $2.1 billion ‘Population Package’.
While this project may be a bid to secure the marginal Liberal seat of Corangamite, the Government has also allocated ongoing funding for a National Faster Rail Agency to identify and support the development of fast rail connections between capital cities and key regional centres.
Work is underway to develop fast-rail corridors in other areas including:
Further to the Government’s $9.3 billion investment in Inland Rail, the Budget allocates $44 million for strategic business cases to identify and prioritise upgrades to improve the standard of regional rail networks.
These business cases will target rail lines that connect economic centres with the Australian Rail Track Corporation’s network to accommodate longer, heavier and faster trains and improve the standard of connections, particularly with Inland Rail.
In addition to these projects, the Budget allocates $206 million to the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), which facilitates regional infrastructure projects and initiatives.
Government maintains focus on ‘congestion-busting’ infrastructure
The Government has increased its funding for the Urban Congestion Fund four-fold, from $1 billion to $4 billion over four years.
The Fund aims to support projects, improve traffic safety and flow and increase network efficiency for commuter and freight movements in major urban areas.
This funding includes $500 million for a National Commuter Car Park Fund to build car parks around railway stations. Mr Frydenberg said the Fund would “improve access to public transport hubs and take tens of thousands of cars off our roads”.
Queensland was a major winner in road infrastructure, securing $2.6 billion for the Gateway Motorway extension and major upgrades to the M1, Bruce Highway and Warrego Highway.
$1.6 billion was put towards road and rail infrastructure across Perth and regional Western Australia, including funding for the Tonkin Highway in Perth.
$1 billion was put towards upgrades to the Princes Highway over Victoria, NSW and SA.
As Melbourne is Australia’s fastest-growing population centre, the Budget has committed $1.14 billion to the Suburban Roads Upgrades, which aim to reduce congestion and increase the safety and reliability of suburban arterial roads in south-eastern and northern Melbourne.
Funding was also announced for the North-South corridor in Adelaide and the Freight Rail Revitalisation Program in Tasmania.
Massive investment in road safety
The Federal Government has allocated $2.2 billion for the Road Safety and Upgrade Package.
This includes an additional $1 billion for the Roads to Recovery program, $550 million for the Black Spot Program, which aims to improve safety measures such as traffic signals at high-risk areas and crash spots.
The Budget also allocates an additional $275 million each for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program and the Bridges Renewal Program.
Further to this, $38.5 million is going towards other road safety initiatives, with the Government committing an extra $1.4 million annually on an ongoing basis.
This includes the establishment of a national Office of Road Safety and a Road Safety Innovation Fund.
The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) will receive extra funding to assist local governments in assessing their road asset management and maintenance requirements, with a focus on regional areas.
Freight and supply a focus, but only inland
In his speech to Parliament, Mr Frydenberg pledged $1 billion to improve freight routes and access to ports.
Under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative, the Budget allocates $1 billion for upgrade works on regional roads, inter-regional and inter-state highways that address pinch points and other impediments to freight movements.
The Budget also includes an additional $16.5 million for the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to deliver several of its key initiatives.
Funding for the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will aid in streamlining the approval process for road access by heavy vehicles. This building an asset information collection, storage and sharing system.
Funds will also go towards the design of a freight data hub, including arrangements for data collection, protection, dissemination and hosting.
A freight data exchange pilot will be established to allow industry to access freight data in real time and a survey of road usage for freight purposes.
This investment follows calls from peak industry bodies including the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and Infrastructure Australia for the progression and implementation of such a strategy, including infrastructure upgrades and strengthening of regulatory framework.
Since both the Federal Government and Opposition have pledged to deliver the strategy, it is set to be implemented regardless of which party wins the federal election.
Much-needed funding for regional airports
The Budget provides the $100 million in regional airport infrastructure and upgrades, responding to calls from the Australian Airports Association (AAA) to secure the longevity of Australia’s regional aviation network.
Australia’s 19 federally-leased airports will receive $3.8 million in 2019-20 to support their regulatory oversight and environmental management.
Another $4 million will go towards a Women in Aviation Fund, which aims to address the sector’s severe gender imbalance.
Water infrastructure as drought and flood relief
The Budget allocates $6.3 billion in drought support and $3.3 billion for those affected by flood.
Mr Frydenberg said the Government plans to expand the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, alongside establishing a new Future Drought Fund.
This includes $9.6 million over five years to establish the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority, which aims to provide the strategic planning and coordination needed to safeguard the state’s water.
Infrastructure funding by state and territory
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory
Paving the way to the election
With the Budget laying the groundwork for the Federal Government’s re-election campaign, infrastructure is set to continue to be a hotly debated election issue but these funding announcements are great news for many projects around the country.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) said the Budget contains a number of important measures that will improve the efficiency and safety of Australia’s supply chains.
ALC CEO, Kirk Coningham, said he was pleased that the importance of the strategy to the economy has clearly been acknowledged, and that many key priorities for the freight logistics industry have been addressed.
“The ultimate success of the National Strategy will depend on our ability to monitor and measure the performance of our supply chains, so that we can make the right infrastructure investments and rectify bottlenecks in our freight network,” Mr Coningham said.
This story will be updated throughout the day, bringing you more detailed Budget breakdowns as well as responses from the Federal Opposition and peak industry bodies.
This article first appeared on infrastructuremagazine.com.au
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