Too little spending on roads, rail – report
NOT enough money is being spent on maintaining the country’s roads, railways and utilities, a private sector research group says.
BIS Shrapnel’s sixth review of the maintenance industry released today (Monday) says $35 billion was spent in the sector during 2011-12.
The report, Maintenance in Australia 2012 to 2027, says maintenance spending has risen during the past two years, but it is not keeping pace with the investment surge in public infrastructure and mining over the past decade.
A BIS Shrapnel senior manager, Adrian Hart, says infrastructure assets weren’t built to last 70 to 80 years without maintenance.
“Unless we start rethinking our attitudes and the funding of maintenance, we will face a wall of reconstruction costs within the next decade, and with no added output or productivity gains to show for it,” says Mr Hart.
A maintenance review is required, as there has been underspending on maintaining public assets such as roads, public rail, utilities and defence assets.
“Governments should be prepared to keep investing in infrastructure to boost productivity,” says Mr Hart.
“But these investments should be accompanied with a commitment to maintain assets sensibly for maximum benefit over the long term.”
The national broadband network (NBN) will be a “game changer” for maintenance in the telecommunications sector, he says.
“While it will allow for much higher levels of voice and data traffic, the technological superiority of optic fibre over Australia’s ageing fixed-line copper network is estimated to reduce industry maintenance costs by between $600 million to $700 million per annum once fully deployed,” says Mr Hart.
He says the benefits will be at risk if the rollout of the NBN is delayed or cancelled by future governments.
Under Labor’s $37.4 billion NBN project, fibre-optic cables will provide high-speed broadband services to 93 per cent of homes, schools and businesses by June 2021.
But the Coalition says it will use a mix of technologies to provide slower broadband services at a lower cost and in a shorter period.