Inland Ports – The next Snowy Mountain Scheme?by Danny Busija on 2012-05-15 04:24:03
Over the last couple of years in Australia there has been consistent debate about the benefits of Inland Ports. With population growth, and ever increasing imports, these have been much needed debates.
It is fair to say that the majority of industry support the idea, or at least think there is merit in the idea. However, the idea comes unstuck when we talk about who will fund it.
This got me thinking. And to preface this blog, I am not an engineer, nor an investment banker. I am a person who works with Supply Chain and Transport executive’s every day and lives in an Australian capital city. Not only do I hear the plight of shippers and transport types, but I compete with, trucks, vans and cars on my daily commute.
Every generation seems to have a major infrastructure or engineering project that benefits the nation. Two that come immediately to mind are the Snowy Mountain Scheme and the current National Broadband Network (NBN). The Snowy Mountain Scheme arguably changed Australia; the NBN certainly has the potential to change this country for the better.
So, what have some dams and cables got to do with Inland Ports? Lets explore this. The Snowy mountain Scheme build kilometres of rail, tunnels, new roads, new suburbs, business parks etc. So will an Inland Port. This means jobs, lots of jobs for a long time. Let’s not forget a healthy and confident economy. And possibly the most important point is that we set up our major cities for future growth. Not just in terms of congestion, but creating communities and towns near these inland ports.
How can we physically do this? What about when the NBN comes to completion in the next 10 years, it would make sense to rollover as many people into the “next” project as possible. Both directly and indirectly employed by the project. Planning can start now. An Inland Port Authority could be created.
Finance, ahh, yes, finance….There has also always been a lot of discussion around PPP (Private Public Partnership) in this country to fund projects of this size, but, there seems to be no private interest in large infrastructure unless there is immediate profit. Profit will come, a good example is the Channel Tunnel, commenced in 1988, 80% over budget by its opening in 1994, but from 1999 onwards it has made a profit and its share price is at least 4 times its issue price. Plus, economic studies in the surrounding areas in England and France have shown significant economic benefits.
The Government should build the infrastructure, as governments should. And I see private funding building the terminals, warehouse facilities, towns etc, which increases the capacity for an earlier ROI. The benefits would surely far outweigh any negatives. It shows a government that has a long term view, takes heavy vehicles off the road easing congestion, benefiting local employment once established and let us not forget keeping 1000’s of people employed and an economy that is pumping.
Wow, would this mean that by 2020 we would see the first Inland Port being built? Is Australia ready for its next Snowy Mountain Scheme?