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By Willow Aliento
March 11, 2019
Among the high-priority projects included in Infrastructure Australia’s newly-released 2019 Infrastructure Priority List, are a national electric vehicle high-speed charging network, remote housing and targeted investment in improving the reliability and connectivity of the National Electricity Market.
The list presents 121 nationally-significant proposals amounting to a $58 billion future works pipeline. It also points to new directions for the sector beyond the traditional large road and rail projects.
“Technological change is driving significant shifts in infrastructure demand,” said Julieanne Alroe, Infrastructure Australia Chair. “The advent of electric vehicles, along with automation, growth in the ‘sharing economy’ and technological connectivity, could bring the largest transformation the transport sector has seen since the shift from steam to diesel locomotives.
Electrical Vehicles on the Rise
“The increase in electric vehicle uptake will forge links between the energy and transport network that did not previously exist, placing additional demands on the grid and pressure on consumer costs.”
The IA Pipeline Priority List report predicts that, 70 per cent of new vehicle sales will be electric vehicles by 2040. It also suggests that they will comprise 30 per cent of the on-road vehicle fleet. As such, the report predicts an increased demand in electricity and the retirement of existing coal-fired generation capacity.
Further, a range of federal, state and local government renewable energy policies will call for improvements to the infrastructure supporting the National Energy Market [NEM]. In fact, optimisation was identified as a near-term priority and investment in improvements to connectivity as a medium to long-term project.
Improved connectivity across NEM regions will enable better use of renewable resources, the report said. Moreover, it will help with reliability through access to energy storage devices.
Housing in Remote Communities Needed
Providing quality housing for people in remote areas was added to the priority list because IA regards it as “an important challenge faced across the country” which requires “coordinated action by all levels of government.” According to Ms Alroe, “Overcrowding and poor-quality housing in remote communities impacts on health and safety, education and employment outcomes.”
Urban congestion issues have resulted in prioritisation of a range of projects. This includes the use of technology and smart approaches to improve the delivery of public transport services and provide better management of freight and private passenger traffic in key locations.
Turning to Smart Technology for Infrastructure
“A number of inclusions on this year’s Priority List focus on getting the most out of existing infrastructure through the use of smart technology, such as Intelligent Transport Systems,” Ms Alroe said.
“This includes projects such as the Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2 and North East Link in Victoria, the Regency Road to Pym Street section of Adelaide’s North-South Corridor, and a proposal to improve the performance and efficiency of motorways in the Sydney CBD.”
Improving connectivity between key cities for both passengers and freight has also been considered. The Inland Freight rail line connecting Melbourne to Brisbane via inland NSW have made it on the priority project list. So has reserving the proposed corridor for the East Coast High-Speed rail proposal, which would link Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane and cities in regional Victoria and South Eastern NSW.
Integration of Infrastructure and Urban Renewal
The list also contains regional road improvement projects, major road and rail upgrades in urban areas, extensions to light rail projects, enhancing walking and cycling infrastructure, and flood protection projects.
Green Building Council of Australia Head of Public Affairs and Membership, Jonathan Cartledge, saw the focus on integrating infrastructure and urban renewal as a positive step.
“Looking ahead to Sydney Metro West, [Brisbane’s] Cross River Rail, Central Station Redevelopment in Sydney, and the continued delivery of Level Crossing Removal across Melbourne, there are huge opportunities for continuing the world leadership that is increasingly characteristic of Australia’s best urban renewal projects,” he said.
He also noted that projects such as the planned Hobart Science and Technology precinct “present an extraordinary opportunity for growth, that creates new centres of excellence, fosters innovation, knowledge and employment.”
“The 2019 Priority List provides a credible pipeline of nationally significant proposals for governments at all levels to choose from,” Ms Alroe said. “As an evidence-based list of opportunities to improve both our living standards and productivity, the Priority List reflects the diversity of Australia’s future infrastructure needs across transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education.”
The Planning Institute of Australia welcomed the focus on meeting community needs. In particular, it noted the projects related to the recent City Deals brokered between a number of local governments and the Federal Government.
“We welcome the follow-through on City Deal-related projects, including strengthening links between Western Sydney Airport and centres in Western Sydney, and the creation of the Hobart Science and Technology precinct,” PIA President John Brockhoff said.
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