Congestion costs $16 billion a year Thursday, 12 November 2015

Congestion in Australia is estimated to be around $16.5 billion this year according to a new report from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economics (BITRE), prompting a call from a senior engineer to consider road-user charging.

The BITRE study found total passenger travel in Australian cities has grown almost ten-fold over the last 70 years, with private road vehicles currently accounting for 87%.

It estimates the ‘avoidable’ social costs of congestion (where the benefits to road users of some travel in congested conditions are less than the costs imposed on other road users and the wider community) for the eight Australian capitals are approximately $16.5 billion for the 2015 financial year, having grown from about $12.8 billion for the 2010 financial year.

It forecasts that by 2030, the costs will be around $28-37 billion with Sydney ($12.6 billion) and Melbourne ($10.2 billion) bearing the brunt.

Scott Charlton, CEO of toll-road operator Transurban, said major reform of transport funding was essential to avoid congestion becoming debilitating.

“Transurban’s in-house traffic modelling shows that if we continue down the same path, by 2035 Sydney motorists will spend 110 hours a year in traffic on average, while on some of the very worst routes motorists could be spending up to two hours for what is a 40-minute trip outside of peak hours,” he said.

“A transport funding model that is built on a principle of those who benefit pay would allow us to plan ahead and encourage more efficient use of infrastructure while lessening the long-term investment burden.”

He said various user-pays systems are being implemented or trialled across the world and Transurban has begun its own road usage study which will provide tangible data that will help progress options for a sustainable funding model.

“Developed to its full potential, a road-user charging system could also target congestion on roads or include coordinated pricing with other modes of transport, such as public transport,” Charlton said.