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NSW warned of $7 billion infrastructure shortfall

Four months later, Roads and Maritime Services reiterated the “almost certain” likelihood of the government failing election commitments in another document and warned of “major” consequences, including risk of death and road injuries and “restricted economic growth”.

The September advice, which the Herald revealed last week, also warned the government was facing a $3.8 billion backlog in road maintenance funding and risked falling short of its promise to take on management of thousands of kilometres of regional roads in council hands.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance inside the new M4 tunnel last year.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance inside the new M4 tunnel last year.Credit:AAP

The $3.8 billion roads maintenance backlog is separate to the $6.7 billion shortfall in election commitments for new or expanded roads.

The documents have been released to NSW Parliament after a request for information by NSW Labor.

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Among the billions in funding shortfalls identified in the document is the Great Western Highway duplication, which bureaucrats estimated at $4.5 billion.

A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said the government had committed $2.5 billion for the Great Western Highway duplication and still intended to start construction before 2023.

However, last year’s budget papers show just $268 million has been assigned over the four-year forward estimates.

The remaining shortfalls were made up of “pinch point” projects, technology plans to “better manage the network,” and catering for growth in developing areas.

Transport for NSW said some projects still required business cases to be completed before more funding was allocated.

“This process helps identify estimated costs which are then subject to the usual budget process at a later date,” the agency said.

“Managing day-to-day costs alongside future investment is a normal requirement of any budget, and especially important as demand for transport services continues to grow.”

A spokeswoman for Regional Roads Minister Paul Toole said the Great Western Highway duplication had been added to the Infrastructure Australia Priority List in February this year.

“It is a nation-building project that has been highlighted as a priority for investment. The highway is part of the national land transport network and the delivery of the project will be staged,” she said.

But Opposition roads spokesman John Graham said the new documents were evidence the government had bitten off more than it could chew.

Mr Graham said the government was staring at an almost $8 billion black hole when combining the unfunded and partially unfunded commitments.

“The government promised these roads and this road spending at the election, now they’re breaking those promises,” he said. “These are job-killing decisions, taken against departmental advice.”

The federal government this week announced smaller road infrastructure projects across NSW and Victoria would receive $1.5 billion in additional funding in order to spur economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Commonwealth would “continue to partner” with the states to improve road infrastructure.

Mr Frydenberg said the Coalition government had committed more than $33 billion to NSW land transport infrastructure.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance last week said he had every confidence his government would be able to deliver on its bold infrastructure pipeline.

“You will always see concerns in bureaucracy being raised,” he said.

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