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High speed rail – a vote winner?

Aug 30, 2013Hot Topic

High speed rail has become an election issue to watch as we draw towards September 7th. But will it ever come to fruition?

Kevin Rudd this week promised $52 million to get started on a high-speed rail between Sydney and Melbourne, with the aim of having the project completed by 2035.

The initial $52 million would go towards the establishment of a new high-speed rail authority to finalise the locations of stations along the line and to develop a business case for the project with Infrastructure Australia. The Prime Minister also announced that Labor would also introduce legislation to preserve a 1748km rail corridor between Brisbane and Melbourne.

The announcement came after Kevin Rudd received the recommendations of the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, which is chaired by Lyn O’Connell. Tim Fischer and Jennifer Westacott are also part of the advisory group.

The recommendations out of the advisory group suggest that the “optimal staging” would be to begin construction of the Sydney-Canberra line in 2027 and to open the last section, the Gold Coast-Newcastle line, in 2058.

The estimated capital cost, excluding the cost of train sets and any operational costs, is $114 billion in 2012 dollars. The report also sets out an “accelerated timetable” that begins in 2022 – “the earliest possible start” – and ends in 2053.

A trip between Sydney and Melbourne would take 2 hours and 44 minutes on the proposed fast rail line, with stops in Canberra, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton. One of the more challenging aspects of the rail line would be accessing the Sydney CBD. The most viable option appears to be a 67km tunnel.

Kevin Rudd has described the plan as an exciting project for Australia’s future that would ease air congestion, deliver jobs and return $2.10 for every dollar invested. However Tony Abbott has scoffed at the plan, saying that the Coalition would instead focus on road projects that can be started in the first term of office.

The Greens are also in favour of high speed rail, however they say the Labor plan is too little too late. They’ve committed $664 million over four years to fast track the project.

There’s been much discussion out of political parties about high speed rail over the years – will it finally get over the line? What do you think about Labor’s latest announcement? Is it a vote winner or do you think the Coalition’s plan to focus on roads a better option?