2020 Infrastructure Australia Priority List puts focus on Hunter Valley projects, including Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses

Upper Hunter has waited long enough: Hawes

THE inclusion of key regional projects and a call for national strategies for energy, water and freight among 147 proposals on the 2020 Infrastructure Australia Priority List was welcomed by the Hunter Business Chamber (HBC).

Released this week, the nationally-focused list identifies among its Priority Initiatives the John Hunter Hospital Health and Innovation Precinct, the M1 extension to Raymond Terrace, the New England Highway upgrade (incorporating the Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses), and the Newcastle to Sydney rail line upgrade.

HBC chief executive officer Bob Hawes said the identified projects had been listed in the chamber's submission last year to the Infrastructure Australia Audit.

"Having Infrastructure Australia note and commend these projects will help ensure they attract the commitment and funding certainty required to ensure they advance and deliver the promised benefits," he explained.

The list also has a focus on network improvement, prioritising the development of a national water strategy, optimisation and connectivity of the energy market, a national freight and supply chain strategy and corridor preservation for high-speed rail on the east coast.

It calls for increased deep-water container port capacity on the east coast, in line with the Port of Newcastle's plans for diversification, too.

"We are pleased to see recognition of some of the Hunter Valley's key infrastructure needs, although we would argue that most warrant quicker delivery than the Priority List suggests," Mr Hawes said.

"The John Hunter Hospital Health and Innovation Precinct appears on the list for the first time, although is identified as a longer term (10-15 years) initiative.

"The state government has proposed a much faster timeline for the first stage of the project, but recognition in the Priority List may help to progress the as yet unfunded second stage.

"The New England Highway upgrade is listed as a medium-term (5-10 years) priority.

"But, communities in the Upper Hunter have waited a long time for the promised bypasses at Singleton and Muswellbrook.

"They could reasonably expect quicker delivery, given the election promises made to expedite those projects.

"The M1 extension to Raymond Terrace rightly remains the region's highest priority initiative (0-5 years).

"And, we would hope to see the Newcastle-Sydney rail line (longer term, 10-15 years) upgraded to a higher priority, pending the outcome of the federal government's business case."