While Australia is still struggling to cope with the damage caused by the bushfire disaster, authorities have drawn up the annual to-do list for 2020 to improve the country’s infrastructure network: a total of 147 major works worth $38 billion.
Infrastructure Australia (the independent body that advises the government on the country’s infrastructure) published its annual “Infrastructure Priority List” in February, detailing what it believes are the most urgent works this year for the federal and state governments.
And looking at the number of works on the list and their price tag, this year sets a new record. The priority list is responding to new challenges related to climate change, Infrastructure Australia said.
2020 Priority List: sustainable infrastructure to fight climate change
The dramatic fires that have ravaged the country, as well as the violent weather events over the past year, have set the agenda for the list of strategic infrastructure priorities. The focus this year on “resilience,” and therefore on improving water management systems, interventions to reduce the effects of potential flooding, and for water treatment. Sustainability is key.
“Our planning and investment decisions need to be proactive in addressing future risk,” wrote Infrastructure Australia Chairwoman Julieanne Alroe in the report. “Australia’s emissions are among the highest in the world in per capita terms and our infrastructure accounts for more than half of the national total. Making our infrastructure more sustainable will be critical to protecting the quality of life of Australians.”
The project list was drawn up on the basis of the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, an analysis completed at the end of last year which indicated the country’s most critical issues in terms of infrastructure. These projects on one hand respond to climate changes, and on the other hand aim to develop sustainable mobility, considered a strategic driver for the country’s modernisation.
The top priorities state by state
The “Infrastructure Priority List 2020” is broken down state by state, in the recognition that some states have greater needs. For 2020, Queensland is the state with the highest number: 11 projects in progress and 15 proposals for works to be planned in the short term. Next in the ranking is New South Wales, where there are 4 projects underway, but the number of proposals for works in the pipeline reaches 38, and in third place the state of Western Australia, with 2 projects and 21 initiatives.
Looking at the individual projects, those marked as “high priority” involve connectivity of large cities. These include, for example, the Sydney Metro (new subway lines including one built by Salini Impregilo) and Brisbane Metro (a new metro network in the Queensland city).
Numerous projects are also planned to improve the road network, such as the M4 Motorway upgrade in New South Wales that will connect Parramatta to Lapstone, or the M80 Ring Road, new segments of motorway that will reduce road congestion in Melbourne.
One of the most ambitious plans on a national level is a high-speed railway, a mega project that calls for the creation of a super-fast rail corridor along the country’s east coast to connect Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane carrying freight and passengers. The idea of the high-speed corridor stems from the consideration that by 2075 the population of the three major cities is forecast to exceed 30 million inhabitants, thus significantly increasing demand for efficient transport and fast connections. While this seems a long time from now, Infrastructure Australia said it believes the government should start planning a business case for it right now.
Sustainable mobility and clean energy
Along with projects that need to be built right away, Infrastructure Australia has added a list of so-called “initiatives“, or proposals that are necessary to stimulate sustainable economic growth. This goal can be achieved by investing in sustainable mobility on one hand, and by betting on a transition to renewable energy on the other hand by investing in hydroelectric power. In terms of sustainable mobility, Infrastructure Australia advocates planning for the construction of a future high-speed railway line to cover the country’s east coast, an extensive road maintenance and renewal programme, or creating a national roadside charging network for electric vehicles.
As far as the energy issue is concerned, the report explains that in the next 15 years the Australian government needs to make considerable investments in renewable energies (solar and wind energy above all) and the construction of a new generation of hydroelectric plants along the lines of what is already happening in Tasmania.
The major works are necessary, says Infrastructure Australia, but must be carried out with respect for the environment.