Australia must move now to protect critical infrastructure corridors in order to save billions of dollars in costs for critical infrastructure projects, the nation’s infrastructure advisory body says.

In its latest policy paper, Infrastructure Australia said the protection of seven major road and rail corridors which were identified as national priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List would save $10.8 billion in land purchase and construction costs.

“Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision. As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase,” Infrastructure Australia Chairman Mark Birrell said.

“Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations.”

The corridors include East Coast High Speed Rail (Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney), Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.

In its report, IA said protecting corridors avoids the need for tunnelling, which can multiply the cost of construction per kilometre by five to ten times as well as increasing maintenance costs.

Corridor protection is also essential to safeguard governments and taxpayers from future growth in land prices and thus avoid the financial (and political) costs associated with property acquisition.

Furthermore, any costs associated with early acquisition of land could also be partially offset by property revenues during the period prior to construction, it said.

In its report, IA called for a national framework for corridor protection, which it said would guide action at all levels of government.

It said the most immediate priority was the high-speed rail corridor linking Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane – a project the infrastructure body said was urgent as the corridor faces immediate pressures as a result of its proximity to major population centres.