Speech: BIC National Annual Conference

Publication Date
07 November 2016

Australia's 15-year Infrastructure Plan

Moving People — Shaping our Cities and Regions

7 November 2016, Perth

Anna Chau, Executive Director, Project Advisory Infrastructure Australia



Good morning ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I'd like to thank the Bus Industry Confederation for inviting me to speak this morning. It's a pleasure to be here today.

My name is Anna Chau and I am the Executive Director of Project Advisory at Infrastructure Australia. Infrastructure Australia is an independent advisor to Australian governments and the community on the reforms and investments needed to set us up for the future.


Australian Infrastructure Plan & Priority List

Earlier this year, we launched the 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan. The Plan is a reform-based policy document, which provides a roadmap for governments, business and the community to address Australia's infrastructure challenges.

This morning, I would like to outline some of the key recommendations in the Plan. In particular, how we can achieve better planning, better decision-making and better value services for users and tax payers—and what this means for the bus industry.

I will also talk about our Infrastructure Priority List. The List is a living document that sits alongside the Planand provides a prioritised list of nationally-significant investments. It also provides guidance to decision makers on where they should direct funding.

At Infrastructure Australia, I lead the team responsible for assessing business cases for projects to be included on the Infrastructure Priority List. This involves determining whether a project is the most appropriate solution to an identified infrastructure need and whether it will have social, economic and environmental merit.

Selecting the right projects will be vital in addressing our future infrastructure challenges, so I will also talk in some detail this morning about how Infrastructure Australia assesses projects.

But first—in keeping with the theme of this year's conference—I want to set the scene by outlining the infrastructure challenges and opportunities facing Australia's cities and regions.


Australia's population growth

Australia's population growth is one of the most challenging factors shaping our cities and regions.

The Australian Infrastructure Audit projected that by 2031, Australia's population would grow to more than 30 million people.

Between 2011 and 2031, almost three-quarters of our population growth will occur in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. This means our biggest four cities will collectively need to accommodate an additional 5.9 million.

The geographical regions directly adjacent to our largest capital cities are also expected to grow appreciably. For example, Perth's outer metropolitan region, the Peel region, is now considered to be part of Greater Perth.

It is a similar story on Australia's east coast. The Hunter, Illawarra, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Geelong regions are expected to grow from 2 million in 2011 to more than 2.5 million in 2031.

These four extended metropolitan areas will account for over two-thirds of Australia's population in 2031.

The smaller capital cities—Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin—are also projected to grow in total by little more than half a million people.

And the number of people living in Australia's regional areas is also projected to grow, from around 5.6 million in 2011 to 6.8 million in 2031 – an increase of around 22 per cent.

Overall, this will have a positive impact on our economy as it provides a larger domestic market for businesses and increases the size of the labour force.

But it also places additional demands on infrastructure in our cities and regions, which are already subject to high levels of demand.


Australia's growing cost of congestion

If we don't adequately plan for this significant rise in demand for infrastructure services, Australia could face a future of congestion and constraint.

Already, over 2 million Australians spend over 45 minutes commuting each way. And this trend is likely to worsen as our cities grow from medium-sized to large, global cities over the coming decades.

Increasing bottlenecks and delays in our major cities will mean it takes longer for people to get to work or home. And beyond the personal impact, the economic impact of this congestion is very significant.

Without action, road congestion alone is projected to cost the Australian economy $53 billion by 2031.

All of this points to the need for greater investment to deliver more and better infrastructure, including transport options that can carry more passengers and service both high and low density environments.

That means better public transport linkages to major destinations, more efficient and reliable public transport options across a range of modes, and less congestion on our key transport corridors.

It's about setting our cities and regions up for the future with efficient, effective infrastructure.


Improving long-term infrastructure planning

The first way we can do this, as recommended in the Plan, is to better integrate long-term, strategic land use planning across all levels of Australia government.

Planning must remain a priority so governments can better prepare for shifts in demand, identify emerging issues and construct the right projects at the right time, for the right price.

As many of you in the room here today would appreciate, long-term infrastructure planning creates greater investment certainty for the private sector, including the bus industry.

Strategic planning also allows us make better use of multi-modal journeys as a means of coping with increased demand, particularly in our cities.


Planning for multi-modal journeys

In the bus sector in particular, long-term, strategic planning has an important role to play in fostering better integration of multi-modal journeys in our transport networks.

Historically, there has been a natural tendency for transport planning to be focused on individual modes or projects.

Recent focus has been on rail, light rail, metro, busways or motorways, rather than a whole of network approach in which each mode plays its proper role in the broader integrated transport task.

For public transport to be an effective option for the customer, transport integration is key and we have made significant progress in multimodal trip planning over the past few years. Infrastructure planning frameworks are increasingly taking into account for the roles of each mode in an integrated transport network.

As a very flexible mode that can be adapted to changing travel patterns, buses have a particularly important role to play in an integrated, multi-modal transport system.

With the unique ability to service both low and high density areas, and cover both the main journey and feeder trips, buses form a critical part of the transport network.

The key challenge for transport planners is to pinpoint exactly where we need to increase the capacity of bus routes and services so that we can deliver more efficient journeys where they are needed most.

Long term, integrated transport planning across all modes, corridors and networks, means we can ensure that transport solutions address an identified infrastructure problem, rather than create a new one.


Improving project selection

Importantly, long-term strategic infrastructure planning must also be supported by a robust process for selecting projects that deliver the best outcomes for the community.

This is where Infrastructure Australia comes in. Our Infrastructure Priority List is an independent list of nationally-significant investments that address Australia's infrastructure gaps and future requirements.

We have a rigorous assessment process for adding projects to the Infrastructure Priority List. This involves assessing the individual costs and benefits of a project, challenging their veracity and subjecting them to stress testing.

Assessing a business case in this way allows us to better understand the strategic fit, economic impact and deliverability of a project. This enables us to provide a high quality selection of nationally significant infrastructure solutions for all levels of government to choose from.

This year, the Infrastructure Australia Board has assessed a record number of project business cases.

Since launching the Plan and refreshing the Infrastructure Priority List in February, we have been working very closely with proponents in both the public and private sectors to improve the standard of business cases for major projects.

There remains room for improvement to better align project proposals with an identified problem, and ensure a full range of potential solutions, including buses, are considered before a decision is taken.

We also want to see evidence of meaningful engagement with key stakeholders at each stage of the development process, to ensure that issues are identified early and can be addressed appropriately.


Better use of existing infrastructure

But it isn't just about new investments. In fact, another key recommendation of the Plan is to make better use of existing infrastructure. This means embracing technologies that drive greater efficiency across assets and networks.

At one end of the spectrum, we are seeing investment in major technological upgrades to existing transport infrastructure, which has the potential to completely transform the way we move around cities.

For example, Singapore is working to fit-out existing buses with self-driving technology after a successful pilot—suggesting that the prospect of a completely driverless bus is just a few years away.

These driverless buses are electric-hybrid vehicles, and are the result of collaboration between the Land Transport Authority in Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University—aiming to improve road safety, reduce vehicle congestion and help alleviate pollution.


Making better use of data

But on a more achievable scale, making better use of existing infrastructure is also about making better use of data.

Indeed, technologies that allow operators to generate, collect and use data are already being used to drive real improvements in customer experience and network performance.

Real-time data is changing the way Australians use buses, and this is only just the beginning. In Sydney, for example, commuters are now able to see how crowded buses are before they arrive at their bus stop using the NextThere app.

While apps like this won't create more seats, they do allow commuters and customers to make informed decisions about whether to board a crowded bus or wait for the next service.

The next evolution will be to use the growing data sources and the insights they provide to change the structure, operation and use of our infrastructure.

On a relate note, Infrastructure Australia is strongly encouraging the use of post-completion reviews to collect data and insights to quantitatively and qualitatively assess the success of projects


Network optimisation

In both the Infrastructure Plan and Infrastructure Priority List, we recommend targeted investments that use technology to make better use of existing road infrastructure.

Some of these investments are relatively low cost with the potential for high returns. These investments should target the key pinch points on urban road networks with comparatively high public transport and freight use.

A key part of this should be using data and technology to improve network operations by, for example, optimising traffic flow through intersection treatments and traffic light sequencing.

We also recommend implementing bus clearways, and bus priority and queue management systems as part of this suite of investments.

The focus would be on improving urban motorways, major urban arterials, and access to central business districts. This would complement existing works being undertaken to address capacity constraints.

Most importantly, whether it be a major technological upgrade or a low cost targeted investment, this recommendation highlights the need to keep finding new and innovative ways to improve the efficiency of existing infrastructure.


Concluding remarks

A few concluding remarks. Fundamentally, there is an important role for buses in our capital cities' transport networks, both for line haul and feeder routes.

In some cities, this will change as other forms of transport are built but a role will continue to exist for buses.

Ensuring that our infrastructure investments are guided by long-term, strategic planning and a robust process for selecting projects means we will be better placed to respond to changes in infrastructure demand.

Making use of existing infrastructure and new data is key to keeping costs low.

As we continually assess business cases for inclusion on the Priority List,Infrastructure Australia will continue to play a key role in encouraging better decision-making and long-term infrastructure planning.

At the same time, we will continue working with proponents to improve the standard of business cases.

It's about ensuring that projects adequately address today's infrastructure gaps and set up our cities and regions to meet the challenges of the future.

Thank you very much.