Daryl Passmore, 11 November 2015

BRISBANE’S traffic volume will soar by 50 per cent over the next 15 years, faster than any state capital except Perth.

Traffic gridlock will cost the city’s economy up to $5.9 billion a year by 2030, a new federal report warns.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics forecasts the current impact of “avoidable” road congestion of $2.3 billion will more than double over the next 15 years.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Brendan Lyon said congestion charging must be considered.

“We hope that the release of today’s statistics will signal to political leaders that we are up for a discussion about real reform, and that a process to properly consider pricing reform will be actively supported by motorists,” he said.

“Charging drivers dependent on when, where and how they use their vehicles can change demand patterns.

“If implemented effectively, it can cause reduced congestion in peak periods allowing city to function effectively in turn reducing the avoidable costs of congestion.”

The report predicts Brisbane traffic levels will hit between 29 billion and 32.1 billion vehicle kilometres a year by 2030. That will create enormous demand for additional roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

By comparison, the past 15 years — which brought billions of dollars of investment in toll roads and tunnels and other network improvements — saw a 33 per cent increase in vehicles on the city’s roads to 21.6 billion this year.

Mr Lyon said a $450 million proposal to upgrade the Logan Motorway proved the value of privatisation.

Toll roads operator Transurban, which bought the previously government-owned Queensland Motorways network from Queensland Investment Corporation last year, will pay for the improvements under the ‘’market-led’’ proposal.

Mr Lyon said the state government’s ‘’scant’’ budget would probably not have allowed the project, which would create thousands of jobs and ease congestion, to go ahead.

“Privatisation is out of vogue in Queensland at the moment, but more and better infrastructure can only happen if there’s money to fund it.”

RACQ public policy executive manager Michael Roth said gridlock costs would rise from $1000 per person to $1500, overtaking Melbourne.

The motoring organisation was happy to discuss pricing reform, including congestion charging – but only if cuts to fuel excise, vehicle registration and tolls were also on the table.

Mr Roth said use of toll roads and tunnels would inevitably increase due to rising frustration at delays but the State Government and city council would need to make big investments in infrastructure, starting with Cross River rail, to lift public transport use.

Infrastructure Minister Jackie Trad said: “If we do nothing the cost of congestion in south east Queensland will continue to grow.

“That’s why this year alone the Queensland Government is investing almost $4 billion in new roads and transport infrastructure for our state, supporting around 10,500 jobs.

“We now need the Commonwealth to come on board and help fund Cross River Rail, our No.1 public transport project. Cross River Rail will have the capacity to move up to 120,000 people into the inner city in the two-hour morning peak period – equivalent of a 30-lane motorway.’’

Rail Back on Track spokesman Robert Dow said: “We’ve got a problem and we can’t build our way out of congestion with more and more roads. There has to be more investment in public transport.”

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said he did not support a congestion tax and continued to lobby the Federal Government to ensure a new cross-river crossing catered for buses as well as trains.

There was ‘’no denying’’ that key toll infrastructure such as the Clem7 tunnel, Go Between Bridge, Airport Link and, most recently, Legacy Way tunnel were delivering travel time savings by taking 120,000 vehicles a day off other roads.

A separate report by the agency showed the average Brisbane commute was 14.9km — just 0.1km less than Sydney which had the longest average journey.

People in Townsville and Cairns travel between 9km and 12km on average, while those on the Sunshine Coast have an average 17.1km trip and Gold Coast residents travel 16.9km. However, one in seven Gold Coasters commutes more than 50km.

Extracted in full from the Courier Mail.