Transcript of Interview: 891 ABC Adelaide, Breakfast Radio



13 May 2014

Matthew Abraham: We're going to talk about a small road, that's Frome Road, the bike lanes that are going in there. They'll be officially opened tomorrow with, I don't know, party balloons and so on. But let's talk about a big road, a road which actually is too dangerous for cyclists to ride on and it's too dangerous and slow and congested for many cars, and that's South Road. You may recall there's been a big tug of war between the Federal Liberal Government and the State Labor Government over where to start fixing the rest of South Road.

The State Labor Government's priority was the Torrens Road section where it narrows and the Stobie poles lean over and the trucks have to use the centre lane otherwise they pull down the power system, and the Liberal Party has promised to fix the Darlington end. Well, some sort of sanity appears to have prevailed.

Jamie Briggs is Assistant Minister for Infrastructure. Good morning to you, Minister.

Jamie Briggs: Good morning, Matthew. Good morning, David.

Matthew Abraham: Now, in the Budget tomorrow are we going to see South Road fixed from Darlington to Torrens, well, those two projects, simultaneously?

Jamie Briggs: Well, the Budget tonight, in fact.

Matthew Abraham: Thank you.

Jamie Briggs: And you will. You will see nearly a billion dollars from the Federal Government. We've increased our commitment from the election campaign 500 million up to nearly a billion dollars to ensure that both projects can get underway. We'll do it in conjunction with the state government at the Torrens project on a basis of 50/50, which was the previous commitment, and we'll do the Darlington project on an 80/20 split. In other words, 80 per cent of it will be funded by the Federal Government as part of our growth package. It'll be a centrepiece of the Budget tonight.

And the infrastructure growth package in South Australia has not missed out. In fact, we've done very well: $2 billion of road funding in the Federal Budget tonight for South Australia.

David Bevan: The Darlington project is not the one with all the bells and whistles though. Originally South Australians were promised something that I think would be close to $2 billion just on Darlington. It was going to have a rail interchange and the train was going to go all the way up to Flinders Uni and the medical centre. We're not going to get that, are we?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, I think, Matthew in the introduction made the point that there's been a fair bit of politics played on these projects over the last while, and I think some of the costings were frankly out of the ball park, and when we paid, as you'll remember—we've talked about this before—Federal Government paid for, at the end of last year, a real study into Darlington, a real plan into Darlington. We had that delivered to us just after the state election by Rod Hook. It showed that you could get the Darlington project, exactly what we committed to doing in the federal election done for $620 million.

So there won't be a traffic light between the beginning of the Southern Expressway and nearly Daws Road, which is a great improvement for traffic flow. And it'll be a project which also does, within its scope, improvements to the Marion and Sturt Road intersection, which you would both know can be diabolical at times.

David Bevan: You need to take a packed lunch to get across the intersection.

Jamie Briggs: Indeed. Yeah.

David Bevan: Will you do the project in such a way, though, that if we ever find the money to extend the rail line up to Flinders Uni and the medical centre, if we want to do that, there'll be provision for it?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, that is a matter for the state government in their planning, but what we've said and what we wanted is both of these projects, as the Prime Minister announced in October, to get underway. The reality is we've talked about this upgrading South Road or creating the North-South Corridor in South Australia for nearly 50 years. This is taking major steps towards achieving that. We've got a bit more work to do when these two projects are done, but these two projects…

David Bevan: When you say that's up to the state government, they'll be actually in charge of putting lines on maps and implementing it.

Jamie Briggs: Yeah. They run the road network, that's right.

David Bevan: So your advice to them is, well, if you want to later on add on a rail line, make sure you make provision for that. It's just that we had this position with the Southern Expressway where the bridges had to be torn down because originally they weren't big enough for an expanded Southern Expressway, so that's an added cost. That's what's behind that question.

Jamie Briggs: And it's a good question. I mean, you need to, as much as you can, future-proof these projects. You don't want to just build for the capacity today, you want to build for capacity tomorrow. And the reality with South Road, as so many of your listeners would know who are probably stuck on the road as we speak, is that we aren't dealing—the traffic—the road is not dealing with today. The project is designed to ensure that there is a free flowing North-South Corridor available for South Australians for time ahead. And we don't want to just spend money, as you make the point, you have to come back and fix in 20 years time.

Matthew Abraham: You're listening to Jamie Briggs, Minister for Infrastructure, and as he said, the Federal Budget will include $2 billion for road funding for South Australia and about half of that will be to do the Darlington and the Torrens Road—what's called the Torrens to Torrens project—for South Road. So it will be a major upgrade.

Jamie Briggs, you mentioned getting worked up design approvals. The word we have is that South Australia's transport department does not compare favourably to other states when it comes to going to the Federal Government with detailed design set ups, submissions, and that in some cases the Federal Government has had to make a special case out of South Australia and do the work for them. Is that a fair call?

Jamie Briggs: Well, in this case we decided to end the sort of, I guess for want of a better term, brawl that was going on and get some genuine work done. We funded that work. We paid $8.5 million to fund the work. It also, mind you, continued to fund work which will have an overall plan for the rest of South Road delivered to us by November this year, which Stephen Mulligan has assured me is continuing that work. So in that sense, it is unusual for the Federal Government to pay for planning, but we wanted to end the ongoing dispute between projects that had gone on for some time.

The Prime Minister committed in October to doing both of these projects and it was taking some time to get the detail that we needed, and in the end we got that, albeit a little bit longer than what we would have hoped. But the reality is in the Budget, we're making these commitments.

David Bevan: So when will work start on both sections—it sounds like it'll be done simultaneously—and when will it finish? It also sounds like a nightmare for the next few years, but when does it begin and end?

Jamie Briggs: Well, look, that's a good point, David. There is a price progress. Obviously there'll be a couple of years of heavy road work. The heavy road work will begin next year, but early works will begin this year. For instance, there'll be works, as I understand, at Marion Sturt Road intersection this year, there'll be some works off the actual major part of South Road at Darlington this year, and there's some early works that can go on the Torrens to Torrens project as well with major construction beginning next year. So we would hope that both projects would be finished by, at the latest, 2018.

Matthew Abraham: Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure, thank you for talking to 891 Breakfast from Canberra. You're about to go into a Cabinet meeting ahead of tonight's Budget.

Jamie Briggs: Thanks, guys.

Matthew Abraham: Jamie Briggs.