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SA lobby groups upset by road funding snub

Michael Deegan (centre) receives the LS Booth Memorial Award from SARTA executive Steve Shearer and president Sharon Middleton.
Michael Deegan (centre) receives the LS Booth Memorial Award from SARTA executive Steve Shearer and president Sharon Middleton.

PEAK South Australian transport lobby groups have reacted angrily to being left off Infrastructure Australia's latest priority list.

More than $55 billion of new projects were named as urgent by the federal body but failed to include any roading solutions for the traffic-clogged state.

SA Freight Council executive officer Evan Knapp is flabbergasted by the apparent snub, particularly considering the paperwork for several projects were submitted to Infrastructure Australia more than nine months ago, he said.

"Infrastructure Australia has failed all South Australians in its latest Infrastructure Priority List,” Mr Knapp said.

"Three infrastructure priority lists have come and gone since the South Road - Regency to Pym Upgrade project was submitted yet it still hasn't managed to complete the paperwork to approve this urgent project.

"This damages our chances of getting funding approved for this critical upgrade in the impending Commonwealth Budget in May.”

GRIDLOCK: Marion Rd, a north-south conduit through the western suburbs of Adelaide, would benefit from more federal funding.
GRIDLOCK: Marion Rd, a north-south conduit through the western suburbs of Adelaide, would benefit from more federal funding. Tait Schmaal

South Australian Road Transport Association executive director Steve Shearer said it seemed like South Australia was caught up in a political war between IA and the state government.

He'd been assured on several occasions by former South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure chief executive Michael Deegan that the paperwork was in order for funding.

But he said the immediate future of those projects was uncertain after the abrupt firing of Mr Deegan by incoming Liberal premier Steven Marshall, along with three other high-profile civil servants.

"It's quite galling to us in the industry that we're the meat in the sandwich and we don't like being the meat in the political sandwich,” Mr Shearer said.

"It's unacceptable because the reality is that there are key projects here that should be funded and are supported by costs and documents that are more than adequate.”

News of Mr Deegan's dismissal came just days after he'd been awarded the coveted LS Booth Memorial Trophy for outstanding contributions to the industry at the annual SARTA conference.

Mr Shearer said it was the first time a civil servant had received the prize and he was gutted to see him leave office.

Steve Shearer is disappointed with the latest funding news.
Steve Shearer is disappointed with the latest funding news.

"He changed the whole culture in the department from one of saying 'no', to 'let's see if we can make this work'.”

Mr Shearer only hoped the funding oversight would be redressed in the lead-up to the federal election.

"An approach like that in Sydney or Melbourne would cause an uproar. Governments would change. They'll ignore South Australia at their peril.”

A spokesman for IA told Big Rigs there was a "rigorous assessment framework”, as well as the national significance test, which determine which projects and initiatives make the list.

The Eyre Infrastructure Project remains a priority project on the 2018 Infrastructure Priority List.

"It addresses the need for additional high-capacity port and rail infrastructure on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula to enable mineral resources exports,” the spokesman said.

"We have also identified the upgrade and electrification of the Gawler rail line, including installation of a new signalling system, as a High Priority Initiative.

"We are currently assessing a business case for the Salisbury to Gawler section.”

The 2018 Priority List identifies a number of Priority Initiatives in South Australia, particularly around national connectivity and urban congestion issues, they added.

Topics:  infrastructure lobby groups south asutralian transport lobby groups

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