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.
 

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.

Australia’s Very Fast Train inches closer

 

Eurostar operates VFT services between the UK and the continent.

 
Identifying the viability of introducing Very Fast Train (VFT) technology to Australia is the main objective of the latest project approved by the CRC for Rail Innovation.
 
The project responds to the recent increase in interest surrounding the introduction of VFT technology to the Australian rail landscape.
 
“Changes in factors such as environmental and transport policy, airport capacity issues, price of fossil fuels and transport demand make the opportunity for a VFT more attractive than ever before, particularly as an alternative to carbon-intensive air transport.” said David George, CEO of the CRC for Rail Innovation.
 
“Recently, Minister Albanese stated that long-term forecasts show that Sydney will require new airport capacity, but preliminary studies point out that the introduction of a VFT would be a more economic and environmentally-friendly alternative to increasing the number of domestic flights and the required infrastructure.”
 
This project is notably important for Australia, considering that high-speed rail is listed as a project for further analysis in Infrastructure Australia’s report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in December 2008.
 
“The research study aims to provide an informed opinion on the VFT concept, which if viable could take the form of a VFT line between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane or some sections of it.” continued Mr George.
 
According to data from the International Union of Railways, there are 1,737 high-speed train sets in operation in the world, with Europe leading the way and followed by Japan and China.
 
“Our VFT research study seeks to establish and review the technical, contextual and institutional requirements required for the introduction of a VFT,” concluded Mr George.
 
It is expected that the final report will be released in December 2009
 

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