08 Dec 2011

2011 wrap: New South Wales submits to the Feds for infrastructure funding

by Stuart Cosgriff

New South Wales has identified its infrastructure priorities, and there's a strong focus on transport infrastructure.

On 11 November 2011, the NSW Government made its submission to Infrastructure Australia for the inclusion of NSW projects in considerations for the next Federal budget. In it, the NSW Government outlined the infrastructure priorities for NSW and placed a strong focus particularly on transport infrastructure.

The submission was compiled by Infrastructure New South Wales and Transport for New South Wales along with other government agencies and includes a request for funding for three key projects:

  • the North West Rail Link (NWRL);
  • the Pacific Highway Upgrade Program; and
  • the Port Botany Sydney Airport Transport Improvement Plan.

The submission also highlights the recent and proposed reforms in the NSW Government's approach to infrastructure, including the new State Plan, "NSW 2021" and an emphasis on a renewed priority for transport in the State. The submission carries a strong message that the NSW Government is different from the past, and it is committed to its "key infrastructure policy commitments, with projects selected on the basis of merit". A strong emphasis is given to the changes already implemented by the new government, such as the new, integrated agency, Transport for NSW, the establishment of Infrastructure New South Wales and its commitment over the next four years to a "record infrastructure investment program of $62.6 billion".

North West Rail Link

The NSW Government lead by Barry O'Farrell has committed to deliver the NWRL.

The NSW Government highlights the benefits of the proposed six new stations over 23 kilometres between Epping and Rouse Hill that will make up the NWRL as including:

  • providing transport solutions to the North West Sub-region population, which has the greatest number of Sydney residents when compared to other sub-regions;
  • reducing vehicle traffic coming from the North West sub-region, which, by 2021 would be so dense that travel times would increase by 50-70% from present travel times; and
  • relieving commuter congestion which would otherwise impact the overall productivity of the city.

The submission also emphasises that funding the NWRL is directly in line with Infrastructure Australia's policy of supporting Australia's cities and the Council of Australian Governments' national criteria for capital city strategic planning. The NSW Government requests that the $2.16 billion of federal funding currently allocated to the Parramatta to Epping rail link go towards the NWRL.

As it stands, the NSW Government has commenced work on the NWRL, establishing a dedicated project team and is currently at the project definition phase – one step before "construction readiness".

Clayton Utz has been appointed legal adviser to the NWRL project by Transport for NSW.

Pacific Highway Upgrade

The submission also includes a request for the Federal Government's commitment to continue the 80:20 Federal to State ratio of funding to complete the Pacific Highway upgrade by the end of 2016. The estimated costs to complete are $7.8 billion (in 2010 dollars) with approximately $6.16 billion being sought from the Federal Government.

The Federal Government has provided funding for the highway upgrade since 1996 and over the past three years the project has been included in Infrastructure Australia's national infrastructure priority list.

Current funding commitments of approximately $5 billion to 2014 to complete certain phases of the project includes 364 kilometres of four lane highways between Hexham and Port Macquarie, Ballina and the Queensland border, and between Raleigh and north of Woolgoolga.

The funding sought in the submission will ensure that currently unfunded or not fully funded sections, such as between Woolgoolga and Ballina and between Port Macquarie and Raleigh, can be completed by the end of 2016.

Port Botany and Sydney Airport Transport Improvement Program

The submission also seeks funding for the development of the "Port Botany and Sydney Airport Transport Improvement Plan", with a proposed $28 million commitment from the Federal Government, supplemented by $7 million from the NSW Government.

The aims of the project include increasing transport capacity to and from the precinct (via roads and rail), increasing and streamlining current land use to maximise efficient movement of freight and people, and increasing the rail network's capacity for freight services. The project is expected to upgrade and expand various facilities and infrastructure in the Port Botany/Sydney Airport precinct to ensure that Australia's main international gateway can accommodate the projected increase in traffic and usage.

Given NSW's track record for obtaining Federal funding in the recent past, a strong and convincing submission from the new NSW Government to Infrastructure Australia demonstrating commitment to policy and planning is welcome. Whether the submission is successful in securing the requested Federal funding for each of these projects will become apparent in next year's Federal budget due in May 2012.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.