Beautiful beaches in the east, and a central business district with the iconic backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge have all helped Sydney become Australia’s number one destination for tourists, international students
How will a city already feeling the impact of overcrowded buses and trains, congested roads and cost of living on par with London and New York effectively meet the needs of an additional three million people?
Sydney’s famed quality of life is genuinely in the balance.
AECOM’s second global Future of Infrastructure report surveyed over 1,000 Sydneysiders. They told us they are feeling disengaged with infrastructure decisions, frustrated with the lack of
Now here’s the good news: Sydney has probably never had a larger pipeline of multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects underway at the same time. There are new rail and metro lines, a brand new airport in Western Sydney and an expanded road network to address congestion.
Time will tell whether this will be enough.
With our network of planners, designers, engineers and management professionals, AECOM has been helping Sydney respond to its evolving infrastructure needs for decades.
This report is a timely reminder for all stakeholders that Sydney’s future infrastructure needs require a very different approach to those of its past.
Chief Executive Officer, Australia and New Zealand, AECOM
Sydney is an iconic global city and hub for financial and technology services, tourism, education and investment. It benefits from being open to global best practices, fostering successful public-private partnerships, and its enviable lifestyle, which is a magnet for talent.
To continue thriving, Sydney needs to embrace bold reforms or ‘big moves’, as outlined in AECOM’s Sydney Manifesto, ranging from a smart-city approach to planning to creating a more water-sensitive city. As global influence shifts to Asia, Sydney has an opportunity to capitalise on its iconic status to create an even more liveable — and globally admired — city.
In collaboration with Longitude — a Financial Times Company, AECOM’s Future of Infrastructure research harnesses survey data and opinions from over 10,000 infrastructure users in 10 major global cities, including Sydney, to ask how satisfied, safe, inspired and engaged people feel with their roads and bridges, rail services and utilities.
Sydney residents, governments and stakeholders are aware of how essential infrastructure is, especially as Sydney has been growing rapidly over many years, a topic explored in AECOM’s report, Making Sydney Brilliant: A manifesto for Sydney at 8 million people.
Making Sydney Brilliant: A manifesto for Sydney at 8 million people But the strains of rapid building to accommodate this growth are beginning to show.
This is illustrated by the fact that 61% of survey respondents in Sydney think commuting is becoming more stressful and two-thirds want to keep the city moving with a focus on improving both roads and transit.
Respondents thought that fibre-optic broadband, solar power, and fast rail connections to airports (in order of priority) are the three technologies that will have the greatest potential positive impact on their quality of life. Surprisingly, driverless cars were low down on the list, despite what planners might expect.
The survey found that the vast majority, 83%, feel that they have an 'acceptable' or better ability to get to where they need to go and almost 73% think on-time reliability of transit is 'acceptable' or even better. And yet, more than six in 10 respondents say that using transit is becoming more stressful (with only 18% disagreeing), so capacity increases to keep up with a growing population appear to be greatly desired.
Almost four in 10 Sydney respondents (37%) feel city government does not usually make the right decisions about which large-scale infrastructure projects to fund. This compares to 29% who feel the decisions are correct. Despite sounding negative, this was actually quite a typical response among residents of all cities surveyed. In fact, only Mumbai, Singapore and Riyadh scored well ahead of the other cities on this question, with Sydney responses being similar to Hong Kong and Chicago. However, it is clear that respondents in Sydney are frustrated with long construction schedules and delays, since three times as many people disagreed as agreed that large projects are usually completed on schedule. Therefore, efforts to streamline the construction process are likely to be welcomed.
Respondents indicated that they want to be engaged earlier in the infrastructure project planning process. Some 53% of survey respondents said they agreed that requests for feedback on infrastructure projects come too late in the planning stage for it to have influence or be meaningful. There were mixed messages from respondents about their level of satisfaction with the communication about providing feedback submissions. Around 28% of respondents said they agreed that governments explained the feedback submissions processes clearly, while (26%) disagreed.
Just under one-quarter (23%) of respondents said that, in the past 12 months, they had one or two opportunities to provide feedback on public transport and 11% reported they had three or more opportunities.
Focusing on better coordinated, whole-of-government communication about infrastructure programs and projects, may be an effective way to better engage with construction- and consultation-fatigued key stakeholders and communities. It appears there are real opportunities to explore different communication and engagement approaches to specifically address the Sydney context.
Regarding privacy and the use of personal data, which may affect how innovative services can be rolled out, over two-thirds of Sydney respondents are happy with (40%) or indifferent to (28%) sharing personal data with relevant city agencies to help improve infrastructure and infrastructure services. Sydney respondents are not far outside the mainstream opinion on this question, with only majorities in Mumbai and Riyadh happy to share their personal data. It is notable that opposition in Sydney, at 32%, was the second highest after Chicago (36%).
As outlined in our Sydney Manifesto, one high-value innovation could be introducing next-generation, east–west corridors that prioritise the movement of people, water and essential services, not just transportation. Such corridors would be value-generating assets that could attract employment and provide great places to live, work and play.
The Resilient Sydney Strategy found that Sydney is most vulnerable to extreme weather compared to other shocks, such as cyberattacks and terrorism, and the city is particularly vulnerable to heatwaves and storms and their impacts, including bushfires and flooding.
Western Sydney is 6–10°C hotter during extreme heat events compared to coastal parts of Sydney. And one consequence of this is that heatwaves can cause power infrastructure to overload and fail. AECOM’s Sydney Manifesto report discussed ways to make Sydney more resilient to heat stress, including creating a large lake or chain of lakes and increasing urban canopies to help cool Western Sydney, in particular.
Concerning green space, which reduces the heat-island effect that boosts temperatures in the city, respondents’ perceptions were again split into three similarly sized groups, with 31% saying the amount of open green space (e.g. parks and gardens) has expanded in the last two years, 37% saying it has not and 31% being neutral on the question. London was the only city with a worse perception of the expansion of green space, so Sydney is squarely in second-last place on the question of awareness of new greenspace.