Publication Details

Bowditch, G. (2014). The budget will be big on infrastructure but we need more than just roads. The Conversation, (13 May), 1-4.


The Abbott government is preparing to give Sydney's WestConnex road project a A$2 billion boost in this week's federal budget, part of a broader $10 billion infrastructure package aimed at boosting productivity and private sector investment. Congestion in Sydney continues to escalate with gridlock on roads impacting passenger and freight logistics. The persistence of this situation reflects poorly on project selection and asset management processes, along with distortions that have arisen from poor interactions between the Commonwealth and the states. Reform is urgently needed where there is less focus on ribbon cutting and more use of well-targeted "pinch point" interventions. For example, removing congestion and bottlenecks from existing infrastructure along with shifting a small amount of demand from the peak to the shoulder period can often have superior productivity impacts compared with building expensive greenfield assets. The school holiday effect on roads is an example of this point, when there are better traffic flows when less than 5% of traffic is absent in the peak. Surely there must be a way to win the community's confidence that we can make the peak hour work better by shaping demand through means other than just pricing. Changing school opening times and retail operating hours could be a starting point.