Private capital sought for Northern Australian roads

Having committed $435m to improving transport links in the region, the federal government is looking for project proposals to help it put a dedicated programme in motion.

The Australian government has committed A$600 million (€398 million; $435 million) to Northern Australian roads as it seeks to boost transport links in the region.

In a recent white paper, the administration also calls for private sector funding to help it advance its Northern Australia Roads Programme, which aims to connect communities and regional towns to ports and airports.

The government will provide a maximum of 80 percent of agreed project costs, with co-contribution sought from local governments and private sector funding. 

Project proposals, which have been submitted by the Northern Territory governments, cover a wide range of costs, sizes and complexity, starting from A$2 million for smaller projects to around A$700 million for larger ones.

The works include safety and productivity improvements, along with new links, realignments, flood immunity and duplications. 

Any projects considered for A$100 million or more in Australian government funding will need to be evaluated by Infrastructure Australia, the statutory agency.

The government reckons that developing infrastructure in the north faces “unique, but at times, similar challenges to those confronting the southern states”, and thus hopes to take an important step by engaging with the private sector and communities on infrastructure planning, development and delivery. 

The government also hopes private sector can come forward with innovative ideas on delivery models, financing structures, public-private partnership (PPP) approaches, public funding support, service contracts and new technologies for the road upgrades and maintenance.

Interested parties should submit their proposals on or before 29 January 2016. The government is seeking to announce roads projects selected under the programme in early 2016.

“Investors are welcome to bring forward bids if they can build the right infrastructure project better, cheaper and faster,” the government said in the statement. 

Despite its dispersed population and industry, the north is home to some of the largest private infrastructure projects in the country. It contributes more than 11 percent of the country’s GDP.

Aside from its commitment to the Roads Programme, the Australian government has invested more than A$5 billion of its A$50 billion commitment in transport infrastructure to the north. 

The investments include A$3 billion for the northern sections of the Bruce Highway, over A$200 million for the Cape York Region Package, A$172.2 million for the North West Coastal Highway and more than A$650 million for road infrastructure in the Northern Territory.