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We’re spending $200 billion on new infrastructure but in 2031 we’ll be sitting in even longer traffic jams. These are the most-clogged roads.
Billions of dollars are being pumped into road and rail projects across Australia’s major cities, yet by 2031 many routes will be even more overcrowded.
Traffic jams will snake back further, delays will be more frequent and train lines will be at “crush capacity”.
These alarming predictions for our traffic clogged cities of the future have been revealed in the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit, released today.
Prepared by the independent government body Infrastructure Australia (IA), the audit said a forward pipeline of $200 billion in new infrastructure might not be enough to stave off a congestion crunch as the populations of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth soar.
As part of the report, IA looked into its crystal ball and identified which roads were likely to be the most congested by 2031. The road that will be the most snarled up will be a mere 4km long and yet clogged more than 80 per cent of the time. Five of the most chocka roads will be in Sydney, three in Brisbane and two in Melbourne.
“Infrastructure in our four largest cities is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth, particularly on the urban fringe,” IA chair Julieanne Alroe said.
“With our population projected to grow by 24 per cent to reach 31.4 million by 2034, our largest cities are expected to see pressure on access to infrastructure.”
New developments in city and suburban CBDs will demand high capacity public transport. Meanwhile, huge new infrastructure projects, such as Western Sydney Airport, will need new motorways and rail lines to ease pressure on existing corridors, which will be squeezed already by new housing developments.
“The costs of inaction are significant. If investment were to stop, the cost of road congestion is projected to grow by $18.9 billion to $38.7 billion in 2031,” Ms Alroe said.
The cost of road congestion, essentially time lost in jams, in Sydney is projected to go from $8 billion in 2016 to $16 billion in 2031, in Melbourne from $5.5 billion to $10.3 billion and in Brisbane from $2 billion to $6 billion annually.
MOST CLOGGED ROADS IN 2031
In 2031, Sydney drivers traversing the busiest roads can expect to spend 70-90 per cent of that portion of their commute delayed, compared to 60-80 per cent now.
And there’s more pain: a consequence of Sydney attempting to take the pressure off the CBD by building up alterative centres like Parramatta will be jams in both directions during the peaks.
IA has calculated that in 2031, Australia’s busiest road will be the 4km long M1 motorway in Sydney from Artarmon on the north shore to the CBD via the Harbour Tunnel.
It’s the busiest road today, but the predictions are the daily delay per vehicle will increase from 16 minutes to 19 minutes. It’s likely to be clogged during 84 per cent of peak hours.
Today, of Australia’s five busiest roads, four are in Sydney. But vividly illustrating how fast Melbourne and Brisbane are growing, by 2031 roads in those other cities will have taken the second and third spots respectively.
The 18km M31 Hume Freeway from Melbourne’s northern fringe to the M80 Ring Rd will be the second most congested road in the country, with delays of 39 minutes.
The motorway from Ipswich to Indooroopilly in Brisbane will be the third busiest with 26-minute delays.
Sydney’s M4 motorway between Mt Druitt and Westmead west will be Australia’s fourth busiest road and the M5 from Liverpool to Sydney Airport will be at spot five.
Rounding out the top 10 will be Queensland’s M1 Pacific Motorway from the Gold Coast to Beenleigh, Sydney’s inner city A4 City West Link, Victoria’s M79 highway from Gisborne towards Melbourne, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Eastern Distributor leading to Kingsford Smith Airport and, finally, the portion of Brisbane’s M1 from Beenleigh into the city.
Perth’s Kwinana Freeway drops out of the top 10 — but don’t be fooled. The Kwinana and Mitchell motorways are set to see huge increases in traffic.
“By 2031, peak users of these corridors can expect to spend up to 60 per cent of their travel time stuck in traffic, up from 40 per cent,” the audit reported.
BILLIONS SPENT, BUT JAMS REMAIN
Sydney’s M5 is on the list of future busiest roads despite $4.3bn being spent on duplicating part of it to bypass a tunnel beneath Bexley that was built with too few lanes.
Sydney was hamstrung by challenging topography that funnelled traffic from the west through just a few choke points, the audit said. But population growth in the city’s southwest, where new suburbs have sprung up, will put extra pressure on the M5.
However, several routes may no longer be the ladder of laggard roads.
In Sydney, the full opening of the WestConnex M4 motorway should mean the Strathfield section of the highway as well as Parramatta Rd fall out of the traffic jam top flight.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be busy. But other roads will get busier and take their place.
In Melbourne, a widening of the M2 Tullamarine Freeway should also be enough to see it drop down, although it will remain one of Victoria’s busiest stretches of asphalt.
RAIL AT CRUSH CAPACITY
It’s not just roads; rails are buckling under the weight too. In Sydney, the building of the Metro network will ease congestion ease on some lines, including the T1 North Shore and Western and T3 Bankstown lines.
But others will approach crush capacity, the maximum number of passengers they can fit.
The T8 South line from the CBD to airport and Revesby could become Sydney’s most overcrowded.
Crush levels could also be reached on buses on the north shore towards the city, on Victoria Rd and between Parramatta and Liverpool.
In Melbourne, the outer sections of suburban lines are likely to see a surge of traffic as new developments are built. The Sunbury, Werribee, Pakenham and Cranbourne lines could be at crush levels by 2031.
Brisbane’s rail system has more slack to soak up fresh passengers, the reports stated, with the new Cross River Rail pumping more capacity into the network.
“More than $123 billion of construction work has commenced since 2015, with a committed forward pipeline of $200 billion,” Ms Alroe said.
“However, there is much more to do to ease the pressures of growth, catalyse development and enable our business to compete on a global stage.”
Western Sydney Chamber of Commerce executive director David Borger said the audit showed that while the NSW Government’s multi-billion infrastructure splurge was welcome, it wasn’t enough.
“This is as warning shot that if we think one new rail line and a motorway tunnel is enough to fix congestion in Sydney we are greatly mistaken,” he said.
He called for more “asset recycling”, essentially selling off Government properties such as the remaining poles and worse and the newly built WestConnex motorways, to fund even more building.
Responding to the audit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “The money is there to get on with it, and that’s exactly what we’re seeking to do in co-operation and in partnership with the states.”