Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Federal Government should review its support for Westconnex

Contemporary Urban Transport Policies needs to be targeted directly at:

  • Reducing vehicle kilometers of motor vehicle travel (or VKT) by at least 10 per cent.
  • Reducing road transport greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent (by 2050).
  • Doubling the share of urban trips provided by walking, cycling and public transport.
  • Increasing Road Freight productivity by 30 per cent
  • Increasing car occupancy rates (from 1.4 to 1.7 across cities).
  • Making new vehicles emission free. 

Instead, in New South Wales, we have Westconnex, which will directly increase vehicle kilometers of travel by 600,000 kilometers.

The Westconnex project comes amidst a relative outpouring of Federal Government inquires into urban transport policy. These include:

May 2014: A Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into ‘Public Infrastructure’. The report found:
Roads are the least reformed of all infrastructure sectors, with institutional arrangements around funding and provision remaining much the same as they were 20 years ago’

December 2014: House of Representatives inquiry into infrastructure, planning and procurement. This highlighted the need for ‘changes in the way the Government addresses infrastructure planning and funding’.

March 2015: Treasury published a report called Competition Policy Review: Final Report, led by Ian Harper. This found:
Roads are the least reformed of all infrastructure sectors, with institutional arrangements around funding and provision remaining much the same as they were 20 years ago’

May 2015: Infrastructure Australia published a Report entitled ‘Australian Infrastructure Audit’. This found:
‘Market reforms have significantly improved the efficiency and competitiveness of the energy sector and more recently the telecommunications sector… [there is] a pressing need to commence the task of moving towards alternative institutional and governance arrangements in the roads sector

May 2015, The start of an Inquiry into ‘Smart Infrastructure by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications. Submissions came from
  • The Institute of Engineers Australia, which highlighted the findings of the Productivity Commission (above)and cited ongoing concnerns with regard to ’infrastructure governance arrangements, including processes determining infrastructure strategies and rigorous analyses of specific projects’.
  • The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, led by Australia’s new Chief Scientist Alan Kinkel, which called for a ‘reduction of car numbers on the roads, combined with electric and autonomous vehicles in the future’.
  • Telstra, which found:
    • If we continue to build and operate roads as we do today we are likely to need about two and a half times more road capacity in 2050 than we have today, to cater for this population growth. However our study estimates that, using a simple but realistic set of assumptions, the road capacity requirement in 2050 will be roughly equivalent to the capacity existing today. This is due to the impact of technology adoption over the next 35 years which is predicted to lessen the need to build new infrastructure.

 November 2015: The Government responds to the Harper Review’s focus on the ‘reform of road pricing and provision… [which] is the least advanced of all transport modes and holds the greatest prospect for efficiency improvements..." The Government recommended:
Governments should co-operate to implement more "cost-reflective" tolls and charges with new technologies, subject to independent oversight. Fuel tax and registration fees should be eased

 Clearly there is a need for the Federal Government to review its support for Westconnex.

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