Budget 2008: Billions for projects, millions for studies

Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan’s first budget will make consultants very happy and rather rich, as it contains well over $100 million for new and ongoing studies on how to spend the billions allocated to infrastructure.

The Federal Government "will invest $3.2 billion in nation-building road and rail projects across the country – including over half a billion dollars to make an early start on election commitments," it said after the budget.

"Urgent action is needed to fix Australia’s over-stretched transport networks and build infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st century economy."

The budget brings forward spending on nearly $560 million worth of projects that weren’t due to commence until 2009-10, as well as "delivering projects to upgrade interstate transport networks and critical freight corridors."

A large part of the spending, however, concentrates on previously flagged road projects:

· In New South Wales: starting the Ballina and Bulahdelah bypasses on the Pacific Highway, the Great Western Highway between Penrith and Katoomba and the Alstonville bypass in Northern New South Wales;

· In Victoria: improving capacity on the Westgate Bridge and starting Stage 4A of the Geelong Ring Road;

· In Queensland: finishing the Townsville Port Access Road up to two years early and doing further work on the Ipswich Motorway and the Bruce Highway;

· In Western Australia: $160 million to finish the New Perth-Bunbury Highway as well as planning funds for the Bunbury Port Access Road Stage 1 and the Great Eastern Highway from the Perth CBD to the airport;

· In South Australia: $118.8 million so the Northern Expressway can finish in 2010 and funds to plan for the Main South Road upgrade;

· For local government: $936.9 million to help Australia’s 620 councils maintain and improve local roads;

Rail gets $192.0 million for the national rail network, including improving connections to Port Botany, and the Port of Melbourne. This figure, however, also oncludes the millions allocated for the inland rail study between Melbourne and Brisbane, which has already been funded.

In addition the fully Government owned Australian Rail Track Corporation will invest $780 million in major rail projects.

$20 billion for ‘nation-building’ projects

The government has allocated an initial $20 billion to its Building Australia Fund, money which in the years to come will be used to build critical economic infrastructure such as roads, rail, ports and broadband.

These funds will be sourced from the budget surpluses expected in 2007-08 and 2008-09, with the possibility of further deposits being made from future surpluses. The $5 billion Communications Fund will also be rolled into the Building Australia Fund.

The government expects to have the fund up and running by 1 January 2009, with the first allocations to be made in 2009-10.

Allocations from the Fund will be guided by Infrastructure Australia’s national audit and infrastructure priority list – the first of which will be presented to the March 2009 meeting of COAG. Infrastructure Australia itself will be funded to the tune of $20 million over four years from the fund.

$132.5 million for yet more studies

The Federal Government will provide $75 million so the states can undertake a series of extensive studies into a number of ‘landmark’ projects that have the potential to transform the face of our cities and the productivity of our economy.

On top of this federal contribution, the states will kick in a further $57.5 million, bringing the total spent on studies to $132.5 million.

According to government, The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has estimated urban congestion will cost families and businesses more than $20 billion by 2020 if we persist with current policies.

This cost would be spread across the nation’s capital cities, for example:

· Sydney $7.8 billion;

· Melbourne $6.1 billion;

· Brisbane $3.0 billion;

· Perth  $2.1 billion;

· Adelaide $1.1 billion.

Where’s the $75 million going?

New South Wales

The government is investing $20 million in 2007-08 in a feasibility study into the proposed Western Metro (Green Line) between Parramatta and the CBD.  This rail link would be independent of the existing rail network and with transfer opportunities at key points, it would significantly cut the transport burden on western Sydney.  The feasibility study will identify preferred alignments and establish a business case and estimates of patronage revenue and cost. The total cost of the study is $30 million.

The Government is also investing $5 million in 2007-08 in a feasibility study to examine potential improvements to the M5 transport corridor from Port Botany/Sydney Airport to South West Sydney.  Improvements to the corridor have the potential to support strong growth in freight, passenger and population in Sydney’s south west. The total cost of the study is $15 million.

Victoria

The Government is investing $12 million in 2007-08 in a study to assess the projects identified in the Investing in Transport-East West Link Needs Assessment that proceed to the feasibility study stage following the current consultation process.  The report, which was prepared for the Victorian Government by Sir Rod Eddington, identified a number of projects that would improve east west connections across Melbourne. The total cost of the study is $30 million.

The Government is also investing $9 million in 2007-08 into planning, traffic modelling, scoping works and pre-construction works for the Western Ring Road.  The congested Western Ring Road is a vital link for people living in Melbourne’s western and north-western suburbs, and is also an important link to the Ports of Melbourne, Geelong and the Melbourne Airport. The total cost of the study is $12 million.

South Australia

The Government is investing $3 million in 2007-08 into a transport sustainability study for Adelaide.  The study will analyse urban congestion to 2030 and identify improvements that need to be made to public transport networks (rail, bus and tram), road networks, traffic management, land use and demand management.  This will include examining capacity constraints at key intersections, including rail crossings. The total cost of the study is $4 million.

Western Australia

The Government is investing $3 million in 2007-08 to develop a strategic framework for transport networks servicing Perth Airport.  The study will identify key transport needs and routes, including public transport, and develop a strategy for the airport and environs, linking with the Metropolitan Freight Strategy. The total cost of the study is $3.5 million.

Queensland

The Government is investing $13 million for a number of planning studies to enable the upgrade of the Bruce Highway to begin as soon as possible.  The Rudd Labor Government plans to spend nearly $2.2 billion to upgrade the Bruce Highway over the next five years.

Projects for which planning will be brought forward include the:

– Southern Motorway in Cairns;

– Douglas Arterial duplication in Townsville;

– Southern approach to Mackay; and

– Calliope Crossroads between Gladstone and Calliope.

The total cost of the planning studies is $18 million.

The Government is also investing $10 million to accelerate planning to upgrade the Gateway Motorway missing links – the northern section between Nudgee Road and the Bruce Highway and the southern section between Mount Gravatt-Capalaba Road and the Pacific Motorway. The total cost of the planning study is $20 million.

 

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