$2b worth of Qld infrastructure listed as national priorities

Infrastructure Australia has added $2 billion worth of Queensland road and rail projects and a new bridge across the Princes Highway on the NSW south coast to its priority list.

Romilly Madew

The updated Infrastructure Priority List provides all governments with a list of nationally-significant investment opportunities for the near, medium and longer term.

Inclusion on the Priority List means that a proposal has been assessed and deemed by the national infrastructure advisor to be of benefit to the community and worthy of investment.

The NSW’s government’s proposal for a four-lane  bridge over the Shoalhaven River at Nowra has been included as  a priority project largely because of current congestion issues and high crash rates. The capital cost of the project is subject to commercial in confidence but it has a net present value of $268 million, according to Infrastructure Australia’s business case evaluation.

“Infrastructure Australia’s assessment of the business case found the project to be a sound investment that would support expected increases in local, regional and tourist traffic, and allow for more efficient movement of freight on the Princes Highway, the main north–south link between Sydney and southern NSW,” Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew said.

Gold Coast light rail

Infrastructure Australia has also given its support to five major Queensland road and rail infrastructure  projects including the $709 million third stage of the Gold Coast Light Rail, and upgrades to three sections of the Bruce Highway.

The Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast want to extend the existing 20.3 kilometre Gold Coast Light Rail line between Helensvale and Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, replacing bus services between Broadbeach South and Burleigh Heads with light rail  and implementing an urban renewal and economic development strategy in the light rail corridor.

Proposed Gold Coast light rail extension (Source: Infrastructure Australia)

“Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 3A addresses the dual challenges of population growth and high levels of car dependency on the Gold Coast, one of Australia’s major tourism destinations which hosts around 12 million visitors each year,” Ms Madew said.

However she added increased density and incentives for residents to leave their cars at home were critical to ensure value for money.

“Proactive steps taken by the Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast are needed to encourage people to use Stage 3A of the Gold Coast Light Rail, which runs through a less densely populated and has fewer activity centres than Stage 1 and Stage 2,” she said.

“Examples of such steps include mode shift and traffic management strategies which highlight the fact that light rail will be more reliable and comfortable for passengers than the existing bus services.”

The Bruce highway projects include work to modernise a 62-kilometre stretch between Cooroy and Curra, as well as upgrades to the Deception Bay Road and Maroochydore Road  Interchanges.

The additions mean that Queensland now has more than $6 billion worth of projects on the list.

Separately, Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey says Queensland rail is also undertaking $305 million worth of upgrades on existing rail infrastructure, including replacing bridges, upgrading signalling and lowering historic tunnels.

“Our rail network is an essential part of the freight supply chain, supporting regional growth  and trade through our ports,” Mr Bailey said.

“We need to keep investing in our rail network so it’s safe and efficient for freight and passengers.”

All five new projects on the Infrastructure Australia priority list have been given a five-year time frame for completion.

The M4 Motorway upgrade, the Sydney Metro rail network, Western Sydney Airport in NSW, and the North East Link and M80 Ring Road and Monash Freeway Upgrades in Victoria remain high priority projects.

In its 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, the Infrastructure Australia warns that a record spend is needed to support quality of life an productivity over the next 15 years.

The audit shows the nation has embarked on $123 billion worth of construction work since 2015 with investments worth more than $200 billion in the pipeline.

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