Time to build the HSR

The Australian Greens will push to fund High Speed Rail in full, with the first step to create the Australian High Speed Rail Authority and make an initial equity investment of $1.6 billion for the first stages of planning and land reservation.
“For decades, Australians have dreamt about High Speed Rail along our east coast. It would be nation building at its best: big, bold and transformative,” said Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens transport spokesperson.
“Governments up till now have refused to take action because of risk aversion and capitulation to private interests, despite studies showing the feasibility, high public benefit and strong economics of High Speed Rail.”
“High Speed Rail will connect our cities with our regions, reduce carbon pollution, create tens of thousands of jobs and provide a return to the taxpayer.”
“The Greens will turn these dreams into reality, and fund High Speed Rail in full, built in the public interest.”
“In contrast, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese announced this week that the Labor party would support High Speed Rail with ‘private funding.’”
“It also appears the Morrison government is planning to hand over this nation-building project to a private developer, Consolidated Land and Rail Australia.”
“The CLARA project banks on developers making money from massive increases in the value of land along the route, building stations and new cities rather than building stations in existing towns like Albury-Wodonga and Wagga Wagga.”
“This would mean instead of High Speed Rail unlocking the economic potential of our existing regional cities, these established towns would struggle to compete with the new cities built around new stations.”
“Construction of High Speed Rail stations both up and down the east coast and in the heart of our central business districts will immensely increase the value of surrounding land. Private developers who see their property values rise should not simply get a windfall gain. By using a variety of taxes and charges, they will be made to contribute to the overall cost of building the project.”
“High Speed Rail needs to be built in the public interest, not to line the pockets of private developers. For decades, Labor and Liberal governments have privatised our essential services, which are then run to maximise profit for corporate investors, not to serve the people.”
“Australia is the last continent without High Speed Rail except for Antarctica. Will the penguins beat us to it?”
Route details

  1. Line 1: Sydney to Melbourne (2 hours 44 mins) with spur lines for Sydney to Canberra (1 hour) and Melbourne to Canberra (2 hours 30 mins).
  2. Line 2: Sydney to Brisbane (2 hours 37 mins) with a spur line for Sydney to Gold Coast (similar time)

Options for value capture recommended by the High Speed Rail Study include:

  • Property taxes.
  • Sale of bonus gross floor area (GFA).
  • Property transfer (stamp) duties.
  • Sale or lease of air rights over public road reserves, railway corridors and other property.
  • Sale or lease of surplus development sites.
  • Parking levies.
  • Developer contributions.
  • Special rates or taxes on a defined improvement district.
  • Hotel taxes.

The commissioned phase two report laying down a plan for rolling out the High Speed Rail project in several stages can be found here. The Greens will implement the accelerated timetable envisaged in the report.

LNP plans high-speed rail for Victoria – maybe

The Liberal Nationals plan to revolutionise Victoria’s passenger rail network by delivering European-style high-speed rail right across Victoria, but the details are a little sketchy at this stage.
“Melbourne’s population squeeze is putting enormous stress on our roads, public transport, schools and hospitals and that impacts everyone’s quality of life,” LNP opposition leader Matthew Guy said.
“Unplanned, unmanaged population growth is killing Melbourne’s liveability.”
Bringing Victoria’s cities closer together with European-style high-speed rail is the cornerstone of the Liberal Nationals’ plan to ease the population squeeze by decentralising jobs and the population.
European-style high-speed rail to regional cities would also give Victorians more options for affordable housing, more lifestyle choices and more employment opportunities.
Reaching speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, Victoria’s new high-speed rail network is claimed to be the fastest in Australia.
The High-Speed Rail Project would see the rebuilding of much of Victoria’s current Class 1 track to 200 kilometres per hour operation as well as major track improvements on every other passenger rail line.
High-speed rail would almost halve travel times between Melbourne and Geelong and between Melbourne and Traralgon and, within the first term of a Liberal Nationals Government, travel times between Geelong and Melbourne would be slashed to just 32 minutes, an improvement of 26 minutes on the current timetable, the LNP press release says.
This $15 billion to $19 billion super-infrastructure project would be planned and built in three stages over the next ten years.
Detail a bit sketchy, says Labor
The Victorian Labor Government, however, pointed out uncertainties in the opposition leader’s on-radio explanation of the plan, where he was unable to quantify the expenses involved.
MITCHELL: How much does it cost for a kilometre of that track?
GUY: It’s about a million dollars a kilometre if you’re taking out signalling and a range of others.
MITCHELL: For the fast track? It’s a million dollars a kilometre?
GUY: Mmm, there’s more to it, much more to it than that – that’s just talking about your ballast, and uh.. stone, and sleepers, and rail but there’s more to it than that.
MITCHELL: So all up, what’s it cost for the 200km track?
GUY: Well… at the moment you’ve got to upgrade your class one track, it’s a bit more technical than just saying what’s the cost from here to there… You’ve actually got a whole bunch of variables as to where you’re building and what kind of ballast you’re going to use and if you’re going over certain kind of soils and clays and the rest.
MITCHELL: How much will tickets cost? How much will they go up?
GUY: Ha ha ha, I haven’t thought that far ahead!
MITCHELL: Will you need to acquire land?
GUY: No, you’re using existing reservation.
[NB. The existing rail corridor has curves, angles, and grades not capable of running 200km/h trains.]
MITCHELL: How do you get the Geelong train there faster – you’d reduce the number of stops?
GUY: Well, you can put on an express service which doesn’t stop to complement your existing services, that’s the first instance, the second instance is obviously using the new Airport Rail Lines from Sunshine-in and then adding extra tracks to Wyndham Vale, and that would then give you express lines out.
MITCHELL: Will this affect the Air Rail Link – the link to the Airport?
GUY: No! Quite the contrary, it would complement it. And we would use some of those tracks. Actually I’ve been watching this with great interest I think those express tracks from Sunshine are part of this solution.
CHAVASTEK: Where will the tunnels be on the Gippsland line?
GUY: I’m not going to pre-empt that.
CHAVASTEK: Surely you know.
GUY: This is about six hours old, give me a chance, Nicole.

ALC urges thorough analysis of Very Fast Train proposal

Any proposal to build a Very Fast Train (VFT) from Sydney to Melbourne should be passed straight to Infrastructure Australia (IA) for a thorough cost-benefit analysis, according to Michael Kilgariff, Managing Director of the Australian Logistics Council (ALC).
Kilgariff was commenting on a reported proposal by Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (CLARA), an Australian-based consortium that says it has secured almost 20,000ha for new development sites along the rail corridor. CLARA says it will present an unsolicited bid to the Prime Minister within the first half of this year, funded by ‘value capture’.
Kilgariff said infrastructure funds were too scarce to commit to any significant project unless it had the full scrutiny of Infrastructure Australia. “There is a real risk that funds which ought to be devoted to worthwhile projects, such as Inland Rail, will be squandered on the VFT project,” he said. “ALC firmly believes that major projects need to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis.
“To date, all VFT proposals have failed any rigorous cost-benefit analysis. If anything the VFT case will become weaker in the light of the approval of Sydney’s second airport.”
“IA’s Infrastructure Priority List has identified Inland Rail as a Priority Project, noting the long-term benefits to potential users of the project, users of alternative infrastructure, and the broader economy,” Kilgariff added. “The trouble with committing to a VFT is that it would divert funds from more worthwhile projects, such as Inland Rail, at a time when the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne passenger corridor is reasonably well-served.”
Kilgariff said there were also grounds for caution and scepticism about plans to ‘value capture’ increases in land prices to fund infrastructure – as shown in the ALC submission to the Federal Government discussion paper Using Value Capture to Help Deliver Major Land Transport Infrastructure last year.
“Proponents often couch big infrastructure proposals as ‘no cost to government’, but inevitably taxpayers are asked to contribute and they are entitled to demand value for money and wise allocation of resources,” he said.
CLARA has reportedly secured 50 per cent of the land needed to build eight new cities along the train line, with the company’s chairman and co-founder Nick Cleary said the project was driven by the prospect of turning cow paddocks into prime property, according to The Australian. “This is a real estate plan as opposed to a railway plan,” he reportedly said.

Rudd promises high-speed rail network

Labor has promised to deliver high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne by 2035, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledging $52 million to get the multi-billion project up and running.

 Rudd said his government would introduce a bill to preserve a 1748 kilometre rail corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane, and set up a new committee to oversee the delivery of the infrastructure project.

"This is an exciting project for Australia's future," Rudd said.

The funding pledge comes on the back of a final report by the High Speed Rail Advisory Group which recommended completion of the first stage of a high speed rail network between Sydney and Melbourne, via Canberra, by 2035.

Once finished, a train journey between the two cities would take only two hours and 44 minutes.

The journey would stop in the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton.

Rudd said the 2035 rail plan would be cheaper than the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme, The Australian reported.

"Put that into context – what is more necessary for the nation's future?" Rudd told reporters.

"A high speed rail network which links these vital cities along Australia's east coast, or an unaffordable, unfair paid parental leave scheme?"

The second stage of the project, from Sydney to Brisbane, would be built via the Central Coast and Newcastle.

According to a pre-feasibility study released by the Labor government in April, a fast train rail line between Melbourne and Brisbane has an estimated price tag of $114 billion.

The study found the rail line was viable, with the possibility of returning $2.30 to the economy for every dollar invested.

The line could carry 84 million passengers a year, with 19 million trips between Sydney and Melbourne.

Although no money was handed down for the project in the budget earlier this year, the $52 million promised by Labor would be used to finalise the track alignment and stations locations with state governments.

It would also conduct market testing to identify private sector interest and capital cost estimates.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese talked up the economic benefits of the project.

"This is a project that stacks up," Albanese said.

"What's more it would lead to the creation of jobs, some 10,000 jobs during the construction phase."

Tony Abbott says a coalition government would focus on quick wins when it came to infrastructure funding.

"I'd much rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow, rather than in 40 years' time," he told reporters.

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