Government signals commitment to high-speed rail

Plans for a 250km/h high-speed train linking Melbourne with Sydney and Brisbane are moving ahead with the federal government setting up a high-speed rail authority.

The new statutory authority has been tasked with launching the major infrastructure project which, if completed, will provide a network of fast trains linking the east coast for the first time.

A board of rail and infrastructure industry experts will oversee the long-term project, which will provide independent advice to governments on planning and delivery. It will also be the lead agency to coordinate the project with states and territories.

Transport Minister Catherine King said the authority would work with the consortia collaboratively and transparently to seek other funding and financing opportunities, including an increase in value for “the important d ‘nation building’.

“There has been very little action to advance high-speed rail in Australia, so far,” King said.

“This is a long-term project that will not only significantly reduce travel times, but also unlock regional economies by offering significant job opportunities and providing a remarkable medium- to long-term economic boost. “

The initial Newcastle-Sydney section will receive $500 million from the federal government, as part of its first budget, for corridor planning and early works.

If completed, the Newcastle-Sydney leg will cut journey times from over 2.5 hours to 45 minutes. Sydney to Gosford would take half an hour.

▲ Transport Minister Catherine King introduced the High Speed ​​Rail Authority Bill in federal Parliament last week. He will come back for debate at a time to be determined.

The line would include stops on the Central Coast, Wyong and Gosford. It is expected to take eight years to build at a cost of over $20 billion.

The authority will also schedule fast trains linking Brisbane and Melbourne with stops in Canberra, Sydney and regional centres.

The entire 1,750km rail project, which could potentially involve 15 years of planning and 30 years of construction, will cost the north $130 billion.

“It’s really about what the needs of our community are, how they’re going to use transportation, how communities along the east coast develop, not just during this government term, but over the next 20 years. , 30, 40,” King said.

“If we don’t start doing that now, we will be well and truly behind other nations in terms of high-speed rail.”

A fast Sydney-Melbourne link was first proposed by science agency CSIRO in 1984.

In 2013, the then Labor government commissioned a feasibility study for a high-speed rail line similar to those in Japan, Europe and, increasingly, China. He found that the high-speed train would yield $2.30 for every dollar of investment or one benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 to 1.

The study discounted future costs and benefits at a rate of 4% per year, giving the project a significant head start over competing projects, a head start that would not be allowed under current policy.

Without this benefit, the benefit-cost ratio was estimated to be only 1.1 to 1; in other words, only by the thinnest of margins will this project be deemed worthwhile.

The push for high-speed rail follows the former coalition government’s mammoth infrastructure pipeline announced earlier this year, which included $18 billion across 22 new and existing road and rail projects.

At the time, the Coalition said its commitments would bring the country’s total infrastructure investment pipeline to $250 billion over four years to 2025. King is currently reviewing all infrastructure commitments closely. as part of the Labor Government’s budget process.

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