Australia’s booming population needs more transport infrastructure

| May 9, 2018

The federal government has just announced $24.5 billion investment toward infrastructure projects, mainly contributing to building road and rail infrastructure in different states across Australia.

This new budget allocation is a part of multi stage and rather long-term plan for investing $75 billion by the federal government in modernising nation’s transport infrastructure. This new investment will create significant job opportunities for various professions from lawyers to civil engineers, from mechanical to geotechnical engineers, accountants, as well as finance and IT experts.

This budget allocation to build major infrastructure in our country can stimulate economic growth handsomely and contribute toward reducing the unemployment rate.

Currently Sydney holds a population of 5.6 million, which is a tremendous increase from 4.0 million in 2011. According to the reported published by Australian Bureau of statistics in 2017, this population is projected to increase to a maximum of 11.0 million in 2061.

A similar trend could be applicable to other major metropolitans in Australia. This rapid growth in population indisputably needs a significant increase in investment in constructing new infrastructures, such as roads and railway lines.

Thus, considering this major government investments on transport infrastructure, and emphasising that we need to get better at planning and building the infrastructure, there is a golden opportunity as well as an essential need to reduce the future maintenance cost of infrastructure such as roads, railways, dams and bridges which would be potentially suffering from different problems such as excessive or differential settlement.

In Australia, the maintenance cost of transport infrastructure has been increasing; for example, over the past 5 years, the expenditure for local road maintenance has increased by $97 million, an annual average growth rate of 1.69%.

One of the key funded infrastructure projects in NSW is Coffs Harbour bypass, which received $971 million funding from the Federal government. This is a 14 kilometre bypass of Coffs Harbour extending from Englands Road in the south to the Pacific Highway at Sapphire in the north. This is the next big project after the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade.

Coffs Harbour bypass is also the last bottle neck, after the on-going W2B project, in NSW to be removed on the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane. This bypass will result in safer roads while removing 12 traffic lights leading to more efficient transport system with greatly improved local traffic conditions.

On the other hand disruption to infrastructure systems and their services can cause tremendous challenges for society, such as a significant reduction in the freight capacity of roads and railway lines and delayed commuter access to ports, airports, industrial areas, and business precincts.

Therefore, Australian industries together with research organisations such as higher education sector should focus their research and development efforts on developing efficient construction technologies to reduce future maintenance cost of transport infrastructure, so the return on investment on the upcoming projects could enhance.

Federal government should try to link the national innovation and science agenda with these new infrastructure investments to ensure the smart ideas and new technologies will be proposed and used to reduce the construction and maintenance cost of transport infrastructure to ensure projects are viable.

Universities should work hand in hand and more closely with both federal and state governments as well as private sector to ensure skilled work force required to deliver the planned infrastructure can be trained here in Australia rather than relying on overseas experts and workers.