Problem to be addressed
The Parkes Bypass is the final upgrade in the Newell Highway program to enable more efficient Performance Based Standards (PBS) Level 3A vehicles to use the entire highway. The Newell Highway connects Melbourne and Brisbane, and is an important freight corridor for consumer goods and manufacturing materials, as well as agricultural goods within New South Wales.
The existing highway runs directly through the Parkes town centre, which limits the length of vehicles which can be used and contributes to congestion and safety risks in the town. In the west of Parkes, the NSW Government is developing the Parkes Special Activation Precinct to leverage the Inland Rail project and the existing freight logistics hub. This precinct will also increase freight and commuter traffic in Parkes.
The business case is for a 10.5 kilometre western bypass of Parkes, including bridges over existing railway lines, connections to the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, and upgrades to local roads. The project has an estimated capital cost of $175 million (P50, outturn costs) and is expected to be completed by 2024.
The project forms part of a broader program of work, and is strategically significant as the final section to be completed before PBS Level 3A vehicles can use the entire highway. Upgrading the Newell Highway is recognised as a Priority Initiative on the Infrastructure Priority List. The project also strongly supports NSW Government’s Parkes Special Activation Precinct. It would provide connectivity to the precinct and the Inland Rail at Parkes, but is also likely to enable more freight vehicles to use the Newell Highway, competing for some of the same freight markets and potentially reducing the benefits of Inland Rail.
Economic, social and environmental value
The proponent’s business case states that the Parkes Bypass would have a net present value (NPV) of $24 million and a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 1.2, using a 7% real discount rate and P50 capital cost estimate. Our review found some limitations in the business case, but we consider that the project is still likely to have a positive impact on the economy.
The proponent has undertaken appropriate deliverability planning for most aspects of the project, and key project risks have mitigation strategies in place. However, we recommend further refinement of the ongoing maintenance costs and planning for a Post Completion Review to measure whether the benefits and objectives of the project are achieved.