The first report by Infrastructure Australia, a body newly established by the Federal Government, shows Australia faces a crippling loss in productivity due to congestion based on current projections.
In 2011, congestion on Australian roads cost the economy $13.74 billion in lost productivity, at a time when the population was 22.3 million.
With an estimated population of 30.5 million in 2031, the report predicts lost productivity due to congestion will cost a staggering $53 billion.
Sydney’s seven worst roads for congestion all appear in the top-eight on the list, with Perth’s Mitchell Freeway corridor breaking up the list in fourth place.
Each congested road has been rated for lost productivity based on a ‘cost by lane kilometre’ in 2011, and Sydney’s notoriously heavy Pennant Hills Road tops the list at $3.53 million.
A section of the Metroad A3 taking in King Georges Road between the Princes Highway and the M4 is next on $2.28 million, followed by Chatswood to Narraweena via Warringah Road at $2.18 million.
Other hot-spots in New South Wales included Victoria Road, Parramatta Road, almost the entire length of the Metroad A6 and the remaining length of the A3.
Of the roads outside Sydney, Perth’s Mitchell Freeway costs $1.96 million per lane kilometre, Adelaide’s Goodwood road in ninth place came in at $1.63 million, and Melbourne’s City Link in tenth was $1.56 million.
Melbourne’s relative ‘lack’ of traffic congestion may be reflected in its future population, as the report predicts Victoria’s capital will overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city by 2061. Perth is also set to overtake Brisbane and slot into third place.
Infrastructure Australia called for the general population to accept that more people would be living in our cities soon, and that now is the time to gear-up for the added strain on resources.
Also, the report says it is unlikely that governments alone will have the resources to fund the necessary infrastructure, and called for more ‘user pays’ systems in future projects.
Michael Bradley, CEO of the Australian Automobile Association, said that increasing demand for new infrastructure, and the decreasing capacity of governments to fund it, showed that a new approach is needed.
“The telecommunication and energy sectors have changed in recent years to boost efficiency and allow consumers greater choice. Allowing access to similar arrangements that let people pay for what they use in the transport sector should now be considered and encouraged,” Mr Bradley said.
Other findings from the report included a suggestion that Perth’s Mitchell Freeway could become the nation’s most congested road if no action is taken to improve it, and demand for major roads and public transport throughout all of Australia will have doubled by 2031.
The report recommends construction hours be increased for major projects, which it says would provide the dual benefit of lower costs and faster completion.
Besides roads and public transport, the report also considered energy, telecommunications and water.
Infrastructure Australia’s focus now shifts to a separate report which aims to list projects for the future in order of priority.
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