An extended bicycle path network, improved public transport and high speed rail connecting satellite towns are some of the recommendations made by Infrastructure Australia to resolve Sydney’s massive congestion problem.
With Australia’s population expected to increase by 11.8 million over the next 30 years, projects need to be initiated now to reduce congestion and avoid a potential loss of $15 billion by 2031. Infrastructure Australia chairperson Julieanne Alroe equates the population increase to adding two more cities the size of Melbourne or Sydney to Australia by 2047.
Western Sydney has been designated as the country's highest priority area with four of the top six projects of ‘national significance’ located in this region. These include Westconnex, Western Sydney Airport, the M4 motorway upgrade and the south-west Sydney metro, all of which will receive the highest rating from Infrastructure Australia.
Following up on Infrastructure Australia’s recommendation, NSW Western Sydney Minister Stuart Ayres and Roads Minister Melinda Pavey recently announced a rail line corridor to serve western Sydney. Separate corridors for fuel and freight have also been prioritised, says Infrastructure Australia CEO Philip Davies.
The population in the Parramatta Road area is expected to grow by 116,000 by 2036, while the population bordering Victoria Road would increase by 68,000. Unless the government moves fast to improve public transport in these areas, the congestion bill will increase from $6 billion to $14.8 billion by 2031.
Infrastructure Australia has also proposed the extension of the light rail from Central to the Green Square residential area, which includes Waterloo, Zetland, Alexandria and Rosebery. However, the state government hasn’t responded to the proposal, though the number of passengers passing through Green Square station per day has more than doubled from 4810 to 9766 in one year. This area will also become the densest place in Australia by 2030 with 22,000 residents per square kilometre.
Cycling should be encouraged by the state government as a mode of transport through the development of a 284-kilometre cycle path network within the next five years. With over 1 million short-distance trips taken by private motor vehicles and taxis daily within 10 kilometres of the CBD, combined with five of Sydney's most congested urban roads located within the same radius, even a 5 per cent reduction in short-distance trips will remove about 50,000 motor vehicles from inner Sydney's congested corridors each day.
Infrastructure Australia has also suggested that places such as Wollongong or Newcastle should be turned into genuine satellite cities by cutting transport times through a high-speed rail link that would connect Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.