Packed cities: congestion cost could triple by 2031

Infrastructure Australia has released a report that predicts the cost of congestion in capital cities could reach $53.3 billion by 2031 if measures to provide addititional capacity and manage demand are not implemented.

Demand for public transport is also predicted to rise significantly by 2031, with Melbourne’s use to increase by 121 percent and an average increase of 89 percent across all of Australia’s capital cities. During the same period, the total population is expected to reach 30.5 million.

The cost of congestion in Australia’s capital cities in 2011 was estimated to be $13.7 billion.

The findings released by the independent statutory body call for major reform of various facets of infrastructure policy to prevent negative implications over coming years.

“The Australian Infrastructure Audit has found that without action Australia’s productivity and quality of life will be tested, with population and economic growth set to cause increasing congestion and bottlenecks,” the report said.

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Areas including transport, energy, telecommunications and water were covered by the audit. The main drivers of growth were identified as population, city size and the economy.

The report also found that Australia’s infrastructure falls short in comparison to other countries, with its infrastructure ranked 20th out of 144 countries by the World Economic Forum.

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“Despite recent increases in government spending and increased private participation, the overall quality of our infrastructure lags behind comparable nations,” the report said.

“While Australia has some unique characteristics, including a large land mass relative to population, countries like Canada have similar characteristics yet rate more highly for infrastructure.”

Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell said that action was needed to prevent negative implications for the population.

“Experiences of transport networks failing to keep pace with demand, water quality standards being uneven, energy costs being too high, telecommunication services being outdated, or freight corridors being neglected are now so common that they necessitate a strategic response,” he said.

The body is inviting public comment on its findings to help shape the development of the 15 Year Australian Infrastructure Plan.

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