Geoff Crouch, Ron Crouch Transport, Wagga Wagga, pictured at the notorious Kapooka Bridge on the Olympic Highway.FORMER NSW premier Nick Greiner’s long-awaited State Infrastructure Strategy re-port, released earlier this month, has a “think small, achieve big” theme, recommending a series of smaller works rather than mega-projects to fix transport in NSW.
The report, which will be considered by the NSW government and differs from government policy on a number of points, covers health and water delivery as well as transport.
It identified $9 billion in priority projects for regional and rural NSW, including new dams, improved water supplies, road bypasses in mining communities and rail service upgrades.
Mr Greiner was appointed chairman of Infrastructure NSW by the Coalition government, and asked to create a 20-year plan.
The plan calls for $1 billion to be spent improving freight links, a $300 million bridges for the bush program, significant road work on the Pacific and Princes Highway and around the lower Hunter, and a $500 million injection into road and rail in coal mining regions.
It suggests a Bells Line of Road/Castlereagh Freeway corridor between Sydney and the Central West.
Three key freight rail improvements are identified, but the report suggests they would be delivered federally or by private investors.
Sweeping reforms to water and wastewater management worth $1.1 billion are recommended, including a $700 million program of water and wastewater upgrades to ensure regional towns met national water quality standards, and $400 million for dams.
Reforms to improve the State’s freight network have been welcomed, although the report puts pressure on the government to take action rather than producing more reports.
Australian Logistics Council chief executive Duncan Sheppard said the strategy acknowledged the economic benefits that could be secured by preserving key road and rail corridors.
“We welcome the proposal to focus on upgrading under-strength bridges, provide rail passing loops and ensure road and rail lines are well maintained and effectively managed,” Mr Sheppard said.
The proposal to address high priority “pinch points” designed to overcome constraints impeding heavy vehicle access in regional NSW had merit, he said.
The newly-formed Transport Reform Network also gave the Infrastructure NSW strategy a thumbs up.
In the report, it said “mega projects” should be less of a priority.
“Across the regions, rural roads need adequate maintenance and upgrading where required for growing demand,” the report said.
“Creating and then sustaining employment opportunities is a critical issue for regional NSW. A lack of employment opportunities has led to the need for people to leave the regional areas to work elsewhere,” the report said.
It noted Dubbo, Orange and some towns in the Hunter were experiencing housing shortages and affordability problems, and low unemployment rates due to the rapid growth of the mining sector.
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