Transport systems in remote Australia: Transport costs in remote communities

Transport systems in remote Australia: Transport costs in remote communities Report

CRC-REP Working Paper

  • Author(s): Bruno Spandonide
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Ninti One Limited
  • Volume: CW017

Abstract: This report assesses transport costs in remote Australia at a community level and is aimed at community stakeholders and people involved in planning and operational community development activities. Travellers themselves do not have always clear knowledge of transport costs and may find useful information to better understand some of the main economic parameters of transport activities. How are transport systems in remote Australia? In remote Australia overall, transport systems are less safe, less efficient and less reliable than in non-remote Australia. There is a shortage of transport infrastructures and services. These shortages are likely to be increasing in the context of demographic, economic and climate changes. How much does transport cost in Australia? Annual transport costs range from $8,000 to $18,000/person in Australia. In Australia, people pay $600–$7,500 per year as personal transport expenses. These expenses are on average two to three times higher in non-remote Australia than in remote Australia. The externalities associated with ineffective transport activities range between $6,500 and $17,000 per person per year. These costs are much higher (average of two times higher) in remote Australia than in non-remote Australia. What are the cost differences between transport modes in remote and non-remote Australia? For people who have access to a car, combined annual transport costs are relatively comparable between non-remote and remote Australia. For people who regularly use public transport, combined annual costs (personal expenses and externalities) are around $3,000 higher in remote Australia. For people who do not have access to public or private motorised vehicles, combined annual costs are $4,000–$7,000 higher for people living in remote Australia than for people living in non-remote Australia. Ineffective public transport and a lack of appropriate motorised vehicles increase socio-economic exclusion. This is particularly a concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in very remote communities. What do transport costs represent compared to median incomes? Total transport costs as a proportion of the median income are 20–40% higher in remote Australia. One factor is the lower median incomes; however, transport access is the primary factor, with combined costs of personal expenses and externalities representing 60–80% of the median annual income of people living in very remote communities, who are more susceptible to being left without regular access to motorised transport. How transport costs could be decreased? Providing multimodal infrastructure; more affordable, more appropriate and more efficient motorised vehicles, with maintenance facilities; more affordable and regular public transport services; and more affordable and regular community transport services could help to decrease transport personal expenses and transport externalities. In the long term, the use of alternative fuels could enhance the resilience of remote communities and enterprises. Synthesis of key issues: The tyranny of distance is an everyday reality in remote Australia, where transport systems have been continuously improving over the last century through great achievements. Remote Australia has a small population increase, high living costs, high unemployment rates, low incomes, high inequalities in terms of access and an ageing population. In remote Australia, at a community level, transport costs vary considerably from one person to another and from one community to another. However, several trends can be identified: the fact that people travel more is compensated by the fact that people pay less of their personal money per kilometre to travel around than in non-remote Australia. Non-business trips tend to be undertaken by sharing and more use of the vehicles that are accessible and more reliance on non-motorised transport, which is considerably slower. Furthermore, there are fewer transport services available, and the people who are financially disadvantaged invest less in vehicles and equipment, insurance and administration, operating costs and public transport. Critically low private spending and public investment in terms of the size of the areas covered by the public transport network create in turn significant health, social, productivity and wellbeing externalities. This situation is exacerbated by the facts that transport needs are generally greater in remote Australia, that transport activities have to be regularly undertaken in hazardous conditions, and that there is a larger proportion of people with reduced mobility than in non-remote Australia. Employment opportunities are also restricted by high transport costs. As a result, the most disadvantaged communities in terms of transport costs are the most disadvantaged communities in terms of remoteness, income and living costs. For people who are the most underprivileged, which include a higher proportion of women, elderly, disabled, ethnic minorities and low-income people (Dodson et al. 2004b),transport restrictions result in more intense socio-economic forms of exclusion with adverse effects for the communities and the remote Australia economy in general. In a context of population growth and climate change, developing the access to appropriate private motorised transport and efficient public transport as well as opportune policies would help to achieve substantial results.

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Suggested Citation
Bruno Spandonide, 2014, Transport systems in remote Australia: Transport costs in remote communities, Volume:CW017, Report, viewed 19 August 2022,

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