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Transportation is one of the big-ticket items in Australia’s $100 billion public infrastructure pipeline. Data from industry research and forecasting consultancy Macromonitor predicts the annual spend on road and rail projects alone will reach $16 billion by 2020, and the Federal Government’s latest budget included a $75 billion allocation for significant transport infrastructure projects over the next decade.
This is all welcome news for Sir Rod Eddington, former chairman of government body Infrastructure Australia, who believes the liveability of our cities rests upon smart transport infrastructure. Eddington will share his views on the future of our cities at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference, where he will be interviewed by WA Scientist of the Year Peter Newman, whom he worked with at Infrastructure Australia.
“Cities are seen as more attractive places to live for a whole series of reasons, despite the challenges that living in them brings: the cost of housing, congestion, availability of services, commutability,” Eddington said.
“The bottom line is, we didn’t invest in our rail networks for a long time. As the cities get bigger and more congested, the best way to move large numbers of people down narrow corridors is rail.”
Eddington is considered a leading expert in infrastructure. A non-executive chairman at J.P. Morgan, he studied engineering at the University of Western Australia and completed a Rhodes Scholarship before beginning a career in transport and aviation in 1979. He went on to become CEO of Cathay Pacific, Ansett Airlines and British Airways.
When it comes to transport infrastructure, Eddington stresses a need to be “modally agnostic”. In 2006, he completed a study for the British Government on the links between transport and the economy. He wrote a similar independent report for the Victorian Government in 2008, which identified a need for a major city road tunnel, an underground rail link and a new western suburbs line for Melbourne.
“I’m not suggesting road is a better solution than rail, but in terms of relieving congestion in big cities, investment in the right rail networks is fundamental,” he said.
“As the motor car arrived, rail patronage either stalled or fell a bit and, as a result, we took our eye off the rail ball particularly. Roads are an important part of the jigsaw too, but inner cities only work if you have the right rail network as well as the right road network. When cities get to about the size of where Melbourne is now, you need an urban rail network to compliment the suburban rail network. The state of Victoria is beginning to build the first of what it calls its metro lines.”
This article first appeared on www.createdigital.org.au
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