Two graphs on why our road spending is 'hideously inefficient'

The government is gambling with road spending... and we're not winning.

Graph for Two graphs on why our road spending is 'hideously inefficient'

According to this report, the government has not hit the jackpot with its cash splash on roads. Image: News Corp

For a government report, this leaked document into inefficient road spending uses some colourful language to get its point across.

“Australia has a true gambler’s addiction to roads,” the report says.

“The money spent is not a rational investment. Governments assume that major improvement is just around the corner, if they could just spend more.”

It’s an interesting read that details Australia’s “very strong resistance” to private investment in roads and, as we pointed out last week, the country’s focus on spending on roads at the expense of investing in rail.

These two graphs sum up its most important point: we are “hideously inefficient” with our spending on roads.

Here’s why: 

We have utterly failed at forecasting road use. Here’s a graph showing the the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics' predictions on road use in 2012-2013 against actual road use. In most cases, growth in actual road use is about half of what is forecast. 

Graph for Two graphs on why our road spending is 'hideously inefficient'

The report argues that these inaccurate forecasts lead to poor decisions from the government on the level of road infrastructure needed to service the population.  As a result of these decisions, the amount we are spending on constructing roads is outpacing the amount of revenue we are raising from road-related tariffs and taxes. To continue to build and maintain roads to projections, the government will have to source funds from other portfolios. 

Graph for Two graphs on why our road spending is 'hideously inefficient'

Infrastructure Australia, which commissioned the report, has since moved to distance itself from the document.

In a statement, interim infrastructure co-ordinator of Infrastructure Australia John Fitzgerald said: “I wish to make it clear that the document that was issued by the consultant, Juturna Infrastructure P/L, and reported on by the Fairfax media last night was issued without the approval, or indeed knowledge, of Infrastructure Australia.”

“It is regrettable that this document could be mistaken as the views of Infrastructure Australia.”

This document is the latest flashpoint in the reams of commentary about infrastructure spending in Australia that have emerged since the government delivered its first budget. Experts have universally condemned the government’s focus on roads, which they argue won’t ease traffic congestion in the long term.

Despite the report’s controversial message, it is yet to generate wider discussion about infrastructure spending in Australia. Are we so fixated on building roads that it is now futile to argue otherwise? 

Got a question? Let us know in the comments below or contact the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter.

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