Roads company Transurban has warned Australia’s current infrastructure funding models are “100 years old”, and our major cities risk worsening traffic gridlock unless new models are considered.
Transurban owns and operates Sydney’s M2 Motorway, Melbourne’s CityLink road network and others, and is a part owner in some Australian and US motorway ventures; including Brisbane’s CLEM7.
With the populations of Sydney and Melbourne expected to double by 2020, Transurban warns that better infrastructure solutions are needed if drivers are not to lose hundreds of hours annually while commuting.
Scott Charlton, Transurban CEO, said now is the time for Australia to consider new funding models to ensure infrastructure meets demand in the years ahead.
Mr Charlton said the current system - which relies on flat fees for tolling and registration charges combined with fuel excises - is not sustainable, and that other funding models currently in use around the world should be considered.
Such user-pay systems may include distance tolling, annual tolling based on projected distances travelled and a price-per-trip system.
“We support the government initiatives in the provision of new transport infrastructure, particularly in NSW and Victoria, where they are recycling capital into new roads and rail infrastructure - but the states still remain constrained by a 100-year-old funding model,’’ Mr Charlton said, speaking at the 2015 Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) Oration in Sydney.
“The (proposed) long-term lease of electricity assets in NSW is a good example of a state government driving reform and reinvesting in infrastructure. User-pays policy reform is complementary and will allow governments to plan for the infrastructure investment over the long term while managing the competing pressures on their budgets from both a growing and ageing population.”
Mr Charlton said the funding model should target those who benefit from the infrastructure, while retaining a degree of fairness across the community.
As such, Transurban will undertake a year-long study of its CityLink network in Melbourne to gauge public reaction to revised tolling methods.
Volunteer customers will be quizzed on whether they thought a different system to that currently in place would be fairer, and if that system would affect the distances they drove or which roads they used.
These results will be compared to projected impacts on motorists from increased fuel taxes or registration charges.
Partners in the trial program include Singtel Optus, TomTom and QuantumIT, as Transurban looks to new ways to determine tolling in the future.
A survey commissioned by Transurban found 60 percent of respondents supported a user-pays system over higher fuel taxes to fund road infrastructure, and 57 percent said a user-pays system was fairer than a flat-fee approach.