Australian 101: Australia’s Infrastructure Pipeline
With Australia’s population officially hitting 25 million people in mid-2018 – a decade earlier than forecast – and the majority of new arrivals moving to a few big cities, Australia’s existing infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the demands of its booming population.
Combined with the needs of an economy that has seen a world record setting 27 years of consecutive growth, the infrastructure boom has Australia’s State and Federal Governments announcing nearly AUD$200 billion (£113.18 billion) worth of infrastructure projects in the next decade.
Headline grabbing projects announced as part of the Victorian and New South Wales State Election Campaigns include a ‘suburban rail loop’ to link every major Melbourne rail line with Melbourne’s International Airport and the revolutionary ‘Western Sydney Aerotropolis’ which will see the development of a new urban centre around the proposed Western Sydney Airport. Other projects will see the expansion of regional and rural rail lines to help take some of the pressure of population growth off state capitals.
However, resource constraints, including a lack of qualified engineers and technicians, as well as industry capacity to deliver can cause delays and frustration for individuals and businesses waiting for long promised projects to materialise.
There is widespread support for increased infrastructure investment both within the community and from Australian business, which sees the potential for increased productivity from improved infrastructure as a key driver for future economic growth. For everyday Australians the prospect of improved commuting times and better transport links have been central to growing calls for increased investment.
One critical factor that has been overlooked however, is the need to explain the broader benefits of infrastructure, especially to the communities directly affected by construction, to ensure that support is based on a strong understanding of the long-term value of infrastructure projects beyond the immediate physical structure.
There are also increasing calls for investment in skills and training alongside the investment in infrastructure projects, both to ensure that Australia has the engineers and skilled technicians required to build and maintain future projects, and to best capture the benefits of infrastructure investment for young Australians.
Australia’s world-leading infrastructure investment looks set to continue for the coming decade, with at least ten ‘mega projects’ each the size of London’s Crossrail already announced.
The strong community and political support combined with transparent regulation and strong returns on investment for private sector finance should see Australia remain a favoured destination for private and public sector investment into infrastructure.
As Australia’s population continues to grow, the wishlist for future investment could include fast rail links along the east coast, further investment in regional and rural infrastructure projects that help take the pressure off key state capitals, and an improved service network for the growing electric vehicle market.