The cost of maintaining roads in Australia is growing and the overall maintenance backlog is increasing.
Australia’s road network faces increasing demands from a growing population. Total vehicle kilometres travelled grew on average by 1.95% per annum between 1998 and 2018. The size of the network is also growing, with the expansion of existing roads and the construction of new ones.
Meanwhile, there is a limited link between funding for road services and the actual use of roads. This leads to funding challenges for ongoing maintenance, particularly where the capital expenditure of new roads is funded and future maintenance is not.
The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit identifies an underspend on historical maintenance, short budgetary and funding cycles, a lack of data and incentives, and inadequate reporting as factors contributing to maintenance backlogs across infrastructure sectors.
The initiative would address the road maintenance backlog across local, state and national roads. Key steps include:
a comprehensive review of road condition across Australia
prioritising and fixing roads in poor condition using a structured and evidence-based process
considering reform options, including road regulatory reform and more structural reforms such as road-user charging.
There is also an opportunity to implement more pre-emptive maintenance. Early maintenance on assets such as pavement can significantly reduce future costs, if timed correctly.
This initiative requires action from local and state/territory governments to identify, categorise and prioritise the necessary responses in their areas of responsibility.
A Queensland National Land Transport Network (NLTN) maintenance initiative is separately included on the Infrastructure Priority List as the Queensland Government has developed a structured program approach to addressing the maintenance backlog for the sections of the NLTN in Queensland.
Proponent(s) to be identified.