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AAA rates the pollies: could do better

Funding: Automotive peak body, the AAA, has totted up the road and rail spending plans of both major parties.

Spending commitments hailed, but both parties lack vision for roads, says AAA

General News logo4 Sep 2013

THE Coalition has come out ahead of Labor in a pre-election totting up of their respective road and rail spending plans, but the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has given both parties a back-hander for a lack of vision.

The analysis of land transport spending pledges shows that the Liberal-National Party coalition has committed to a total of $20.4 billion in transport infrastructure spending while the Rudd Government has committed to a total of $17.9 billion in projects.

“It has been encouraging to see that both Labor and the Coalition have made significant commitments to invest in key road and land transport infrastructure projects during this campaign,” AAA chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

The AAA is the peak body for eight state- and territory-based auto clubs: the NRMA, the RAVC, the RACQ, the RAA, the RAC, the RACT, the AANT and the RACA.

“Australians deserve less congested roads and safer highways in order to increase productivity and improve their lifestyles,” Mr McKellar said.

While the AAA was pleased with the level of commitment shown by both sides, there is still concern about the lack of vision and long-term planning around infrastructure.

“We remain concerned that neither of the major parties has fully addressed the need for a better long-term approach to infrastructure planning and funding,” he said.

“It is essential that we make reform of transport funding a top priority in the next term of government.

“There must be a move away from the current politically driven ad-hoc funding approach to ensure we close the growing transport infrastructure gap,” he said.

Given the size of some of the projects and the time it will take to complete some of them, a timeline allowing accurate comparisons of spending over the same period is impractical.

One interesting aspect to the AAA analysis is that the current ALP government will spread its resources over 19 projects while the Coalition will be funding a total of 16 projects.

The three extra projects the government will fund are all urban rail projects: Victoria’s Metro Rail Tunnel ($3 billion), Brisbane’s Cross River Rail ($715 million) and Perth’s Light Rail ($500 million).

This is in-line with statements by the leader of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, who has said no government he leads would help fund the urban rail projects.

Even though the Labor Government will fund these rail projects, its total of committed spending falls $2.5 billion short of the Coalition’s commitments, mainly because the Coalition appears to be opting for a Rolls-Royce approach to the roads it will fund.

For instance, both parties will fund the Pacific Highway renewal in NSW, but while the ALP has earmarked $3.56 billion for the project, the Coalition will spend $5.64 billion on the same project.

On the Bruce Highway in Queensland, Labor has committed $4.1 billion while the Coalition will spend $6.7 billion.

Labor will spend $318 million on Queensland’s Warrego Highway while the Liberal and National parties plan to spend a total of $1.21 billion on the Toowoomba to Miles upgrade and the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing.

Apart from Labor’s support for the Metro Rail Runnel in Melbourne, the other big difference in that state is that the Coalition will help fund the East-West Road Link to the tune of $1.5 billion while the Labor Party, at state and federal levels, does not think that project should take priority over the Metro Rail Tunnel.

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