More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors

Publication Date
07 July 2017

Infrastructure Australia, the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor, has launched a new policy paper compelling Australian governments to act to protect vital infrastructure corridors and avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption when delivering new infrastructure.

The third paper released as part of Infrastructure Australia’s Reform Series, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term shows that protection and early acquisition of just seven corridors identified as national priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion in land purchase and construction costs.

These strategic corridors are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.  

“Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision. As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase,” said Infrastructure Australia Chairman, Mark Birrell.

“Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations.

“If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to ten times higher than it would have been.

“Protecting seven of the corridors identified on the recently revised Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion. To put that sum in perspective, it is the equivalent of more than two years’ spending by the Australian Government on land transport such as major roads, railways and local roads.

“State and territory governments historically have shown leadership in protecting infrastructure corridors, but more needs to be done now. Experience clearly shows that planning the right infrastructure early, timing delivery to meet demand and ensuring it is fit for purpose enhances economic opportunity and delivers the best community outcomes.

“The M4, M5 and M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne and the rail line to Mandurah south of Perth are excellent examples where the foresight to protect infrastructure corridors allowed our cities to thrive and accommodate their growing populations.

“The most urgent priority for protection is the east coast high speed rail corridor. This critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres and should be a key focus for NSW, Victorian and federal governments.

“That is why Infrastructure Australia is recommending that a national framework for corridor protection be put in place to guide coordinated and meaningful action by all levels of government.

“A coordinated approach, involving joint governance arrangements to oversee land acquisition, joint funding commitments, and joint agreement regarding land use management measures will keep governments at both levels committed to the urgent task at hand,” Mr Birrell said

Key facts

  • Corridor protection is essential to safeguard governments—and taxpayers—from future growth in land prices and their impact on infrastructure costs.
  • Placing a project in a tunnel can multiply its cost per kilometre by 5-10 times, as well as adding to the project’s ongoing operational and maintenance costs.
  • Recent tunnelled motorway proposals are expected to cost in the order of $100 million per lane kilometre to build.
  • Governments can save taxpayers large sums of money through corridor protection. Protecting just seven corridors included on the Infrastructure Priority List could save $10.8 billion.
  • Costs associated with early acquisition of land can be partially offset by property revenues during the period prior to construction.
  • Infrastructure Australia is calling for a national framework for corridor protection to guide coordinated and meaningful action by all levels of government.