brisbanetimes.com.au senior reporter
South-east Queensland must find 700,000 homes for an extra 1.4 million people within 15 years, Australia’s pre-eminent infrastructure body says.
On Wednesday, Infrastructure Australia said if no key infrastructure projects were built in the south-east, the cost of waiting in traffic for commuters, small, medium and large businesses will escalate from $1.9 billion in 2011 to $9.2 billion by 2031.
Queensland’s population will grow to 6.4 million and south-east Queensland’s population will grow by 1.4 million in 15 years.
That is the blunt warning to Australian governments and industry organisations from Infrastructure Australia as it begins a major campaign to persuade governments they must commit to big infrastructure projects.
In addition, Engineers Australia Queensland infrastructure spokesman Chris Warnock, who in 1993 warned a second rail crossing of Brisbane River was needed by 2015, said successive Queensland state governments had been “missing in action” over infrastructure for the past “10 to 15 years”.
“It doesn’t matter who the government is,” Mr Warnock said.
“The emergence of a lot of major investment by Brisbane City Council in infrastructure (Clem7 tunnel, Go Between Bridge, Airport Link and Legacy Way tunnel) I would suggest is a direct consequence of the missing-in-action of the state governments,” he said.
On Wednesday, Infrastructure Australia identified “solutions” to Queensland’s share of the national problems of congestion, population growth and transport infrastructure.
The report supports “higher” density – seven to eight storeys – along transport routes, not high density at all costs and notes it is cheaper to bring water, transport and electricity to inner-city units ($26,500 per unit) than to a outer-Brisbane block ($69,000).
Infrastructure Australia chief executive Philip Davies hailed the research as “groundbreaking”, based on the project research as it was in 2015, new modelling and new congestion costs.
Mr Davies said the report recognised Australian capital cities need to look at 21st-century solutions.
“Australia’s largest cities should start planning for integrated, timetable-free, ‘turn up and go’ train and bus services – similar to that of New York, Singapore, London and Paris,” the report says.
“What we are going to release is a range of ‘solutions’, that is the physical future projects, but also reforms in how we do things and how we do things using the markets,” Mr Davies said.
Mr Davies said south-east Queensland would take the lion’s share of the population increase.
“And the consequence of that as ‘a worst-case scenario’ over the next 15 years is that the cost of congestion is going to increase from what we measured in 2011 as $1.9 billion a year to $9.2 billion in 2031.”
High priority projects – must start within five years
- Ipswich Motorway – Rocklea to Darra section.
- Pacific Motorway M1 – Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes.
- Cross River Rail – extra rail line across the Brisbane River because existing rail bridge gets congested from 2016.
- Freight rail access to the Port of Brisbane.
Priority projects – must start within 10 years
- Gold Coast light rail stage two.
- Gateway Motorway/Pacific Motorway merge upgrade project.
- Bruce Highway progressive highway upgrades.
- Beerburrum to Nambour rail upgrade – widening the single rail section.
- Gladstone Port land access improvements.
- Mt Isa to Townsville new rail line.
- Lower Fitzroy River water infrastructure – raising the Eden Bann Weir on the Fitzroy River.
- Upgrading 4.7 km of the Cunningham Highway from Yamanto to Ebenezer west of Ipswich.
Chris Warnock welcomed the report identifying the federal government must have a “a more active role” in the “governance of cities”.
“That is fantastic. That is a huge shift under Malcolm Turnbull, because under Tony Abbott and under John Howard before him, it just did not exist,” he said.
However Brisbane’s key project, the Cross River Rail has slipped from a High Priority “Project” to a High Priority “Initiative” because the federal government was still waiting on the new business case from the Palaszczuk government.
Mr Warnock said the slide in Cross River Rail’s priority was simply a tragedy of poor planning.
“By 2011 Cross River Rail was the highest national priority project on Infrastructure Australia’s list,” Mr Warnock said.
“And we are now having this discussion in February 2016, and it is now only a high-priority initiative and the federal government is still waiting for a business case to be submitted by the Queensland Government.”
“So you can see my frustration.”
Sydney and Melbourne now also have similar underground “metro rail” projects to Brisbane, the Infrastructure Australia list shows.