Tony Abbott reveals $7bn plan for the Bruce Highway

Opposition leader Tony Abbott has promised $7 billion worth of funding over the next ten years to upgrade Queensland’s Bruce Highway.

In Mackay to unveil the plan, Abbott said if the Coalition was elected it would fix the notorious road.

"I want to be an infrastructure prime minister should I have that privilege after the coming election," Abbott said.

"And as I say, on this particular subject, I am much more of a Queenslander than [Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd will ever be."  

Abbott said the plan was a significant investment to improve safety on the 1600 kilometre highway where four people lose their lives every month, Brisbane Times reported.

"Our plan will fix the Bruce Highway, not just patch it," he said.

“The Bruce Highway is not only the lifeline of Queensland but it is the gateway to northern Australia.

"This commitment is an integral part of the Coalition’s real action plan for Queensland. We won’t just talk about fixing the Bruce Highway, we will actually do it.”

Under the plan, funding for the upgrades would represent and 8:20 funding split with the Queensland government with the Coalition to provide $2.1 billion over the next four years and $4.6 billion over the following six years.

Proposed works include duplications north of Gympie and south of Carins, as well as ringroads in Mackay, Townsville and Rockhampton and planning for other bypasses.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman welcomed the funding pledge.

"Improvements will be coming to your local section of the Bruce Highway under the federal coalition," he said.

However Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese labelled the oppositions leader’s policy as"smoke and mirrors" because only $2.1 billion would contributed in the first four years.

"It's fine to say we've got a 10-year plan and all the money's in year nine and year 10 and when we get a fourth term Abbott government we might get around to doing something."

Mackay ring road can’t handle wide loads

There are fears the proposed Mackay ring road will not be able to handle wide loads based on existing plans.

Road Accident Action Group safety co-ordinator Graeme Ransley said since only two lanes would be utilised on the Stockroute Road section of the ring road, vehicles with wide loads would still have to use Bruce Highway.

Ransley added vehicles going to and from the west would have to use Homebush Road to Rosella, south of Mackay, instead of the proposed Peaks Down Realignment part of the ring road, the Daily Mercury reported.

“This project must be of equal importance as the ring road,” Ransley said.

“Both projects (are) integral, however, this is not clear on the legend, as the Peak Downs Realignment (is) only mentioned as ‘future projects’”.

He is concerned that as new mining operations commence in the Galilee Basin in the next few years, it is important the roads between Paget, Hay Point and regions west of Mackay are well connected.

“You’ve got Dudgeon Point coming online in the next few years, Hay Point expansion…people are commuting up and down highway and they are going to be stopped,” he said.

But a spokesman from the Department of Main Roads countered Ransley’s comments, saying ‘the Mackay Ring Road and existing network will accommodate wide-load vehicles’.

Yesterday was the deadline for submissions on the project, which plans to divert traffic from Bruce Highway between Stockroute Road, south of the city, to north of Glenella.

RAAG has asked Transport and Main Roads to built four lanes on the ring road instead of two.

Ransley is pushing for more people to make submissions.

“We need other people from the public to have an opinion,” he said.

Bruce Highway is struggling to keep up with the large numbers of heavy vehicles using the road, according to the NTARC report earlier this year.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the Bruce Highway did not receive enough investment. He said $3.3 billion had been invested into the road since Labor came into office, with 90 kilometres of duplications currently under construction. 

Budget a win for NSW south coast roads

This afternoon’s NSW budget is set to be a win for Illawarra’s roads, with hundreds  of millions being earmarked for major upgrades.

The Illawarra Mercury reported that the government will allocate $200 million to upgrading the Princess Highway, with another $1 million set aside for plans to upgrade the Albion Park bypass.

The $310 million Gerringong upgrade will receive a further $115 million, with $19 has been set aside for the Foxground and Berry Bypass, and $18 million will be spent at South Nowra.

While at Mount Ousley, $4 million will be put towards developing climbing lanes.

Kiama MP Gareth Ward said it the upgrades could not come sooner for the region.

"I've attended the funerals of people who have lost their lives on the Princes Highway and it's one of the reasons I stood for Parliament, to fix this road," Ward said. "And that is what this budget is delivering."

"The Princes Highway was appallingly neglected by the previous Labor government," he said.

"The largest single investment in history on the Princes Highway is now under way at Gerringong, with more funds for Berry and the necessary studies towards the Albion Park Rail bypass."

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said his government had spent more than $287 million on the Princes Highway since 2011.

Image: expressway.paulrands.com

Infrastructure funding boost in budget

The Australian Logistics Council has welcomed the strong infrastructure focus in the 2013/2014 Budget.

As part of his $100 billion nationwide infrastructure blueprint, the Treasurer has committed to funding big projects around the country.

Victoria will receive $3.8 billion for projects including Melbourne Metro rail, Ballarat freight hub and upgrades to the Monash Freeway.

NSW has benefited from a $2.7 billion injection to fund improvements to the New England Highway, extensions of both the M4 and M5 and upgrades to roads on Mt Ousley.

Queensland has been handed $2 billion plus $4.1 billion for the Bruce Highway. Projects will include Gateway North upgrade and widening of the Ipswich motorway.

Western Australia is set to receive $1.1 billion plus $500 million for public transport with the Tonkin and Leach highways both set for upgrades.

In other states, South Australia has been flagged for $577 million, Tasmania $180 million, the Northern Territory $160 million and ACT $144 million.

The ALC said a strong infrastructure spend will ensure supply chain efficiencies are improved.

 “A strong financial commitment to improving our road and rail links is critical to improving freight efficiency and productivity levels in the industry,” said Michael Kilgariff, ALC Managing Director.

“The Government’s intention to boost infrastructure spending under Nation Building 2 is welcome but we also note a number of major projects are contingent on partnership arrangements with the states and also on coming to commercial agreements with the private sector.

“Nation Building 2 will be critical to meeting our future freight challenges, and so ALC looks forward to future governments taking this program forward and ensuring the proposed projects are delivered in a timely fashion to improve supply chain efficiency.

“This will depend in part on the government putting in place appropriate taxation measures to encourage greater private sector investment in freight infrastructure.

“We therefore encourage the work of the Infrastructure Finance Working Group to continue so governments can leverage much needed private capital in freight logistics infrastructure,” he said.

Kilgariff praised the Government for including ‘Moving Freight’ as one of its four core themes under the Nation Building 2 program.

“ALC hopes this more formal recognition of freight in the Nation Building 2 program will help to ensure funds are targeted at freight logistics projects which are in the national interest and have broad and lasting economic and social benefits,” he said.

“Infrastructure projects must have a greater focus on improving supply chain efficiency and increasing capacity on key freight routes, particularly in our major cities and around our ports.

“In this regard, we welcome the proposed investment in track upgrades around Port Botany in Sydney which are critical to supporting growth in containerised freight from the Port, as well as the future expansion of the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal in Sydney’s west.

“To maximise efficiencies across the network we also need to harness 21st century technologies and so industry also welcomes the funds allocated to progress the Advanced Train Management System.

Kilgariff said the funds allocated to progress an inland freight route was sensible, long term thinking.

“With growing levels of congestion in our cities, it is abundantly clear that greater effort is required by both industry and government to get more freight onto rail, particularly along the north south corridor,” he said.

“The money set aside to undertake further environmental work and to protect corridors for the inland freight route will help to ensure the line can come to fruition which it is economically feasible to do so.”

In announcing the funding, Treasurer Wayne Swan said he the government would partner with both the private sector and state governments to deliver the infrastructure.

"These investments will boost productivity, build capacity, improve safety and relieve congestion," he said.

"As well as improving the quality of life in our communities across the nation."

$50 million for NSW road and freight

The New South Wales and Federal Governments have announced a new $50 million funding package to help improve transport and freight links in country NSW.

In a statement NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said as part of the package $10m would be spent building new overtaking lanes on the Newell Highway, improving safety and cutting travel times.

 

“The extra overtaking lanes on the Newell also will help support freight movements in rural NSW,” he said.

 

“Large volumes of freight are carried on this route every day and it is important we provide motorists with safe passing opportunities along this vital route which runs through the spine of country NSW.”

 

Around $40 million will also be spent to replace the Kapooka Rail Bridge along the Olympic Highway near Wagga Wagga.

 

“Kapooka Rail Bridge is carrying an increasing number of heavy freight vehicles—about 150,000 truck movements each year—and this funding will result in the bridge being replaced and the removal of sharp curves on either side of the current structure,” Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said.

 

“Once completed, the project will open 315 kilometres of road for additional Higher Mass Limit use, removing 4,200 heavy vehicle trips each year.”

 

The total package will be funded by a 50-50 split between the NSW and Federal Government.

Victorian roads set for upgrade with $170m boost

The Victorian Government will spend an extra $170 million to upgrade the state’s roads.

Next week’s Victorian budget will see $466 million slated for road funding, including $90 million for the rebuilding of roads and $80 million for road resurfacing.

Premier Denis Napthine said VicRaods will determine where the money will be spent, but said priority areas included roads affected by flooding, ABC reported.

Roads Minister Terry Mulder said rain had caused potholes on several country roads.

"We've gone through two years of rehabilitating some of the roads dealing with pot holes as quickly as we possibly could but now this gives us an opportunity to plan," he said.

Image: caradvice.com.au

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