Albanese changes heart on high-speed rail
In a dramatic turnaround, federal minister for transport and infrastructure Anthony Albanese has told several media outlets that building a high-speed rail network along Australia’s east coast would be costly and disruptive.
Albanese's recent comments on high speed rail are a slight change of tune from his confidence in 2011.
The minister has in the past been a firm supporter of the proposed HSR network on Australia’s east coast, linking population centres in Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne.
“High-speed rail could be a game changer,” Albanese said in August 2011, when the first stage of the government’s strategic study into the proposal was released. “That’s why the Gillard Labor Government has put it back on the agenda.”
But last week, with stage two of that study to soon be released, Albanese changed his tune, indicating that noise and cost restraints could torpedo the plans.
“As a high-speed rail train passes, the noise level will reach 100 decibels,” Albanese was quoted in several media sources.
“The study I've commissioned into high-speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane proposes a track that is 1,750km long,” he continued, referencing the threat extensive costs could pose to the plans. “Importantly, it includes over 144km of tunnelling, much of it in Sydney, which is the only way that a high-speed rail network can be built through a city such as Sydney … the high-speed rail has to go in a straight line.”
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt took Albanese’s comments as an opportunity to remind the public that Australia and Antarctica are the only two continents without high-speed rail, saying that “if we leave it up to Labor, the penguins are going to beat us to it.”
The Greens party has long been an advocate of high-speed rail, due to its environmental benefits over air and road transport. The Greens also recently released a report suggesting the new network would present a $48bn benefit to the economy.
Australian Railway Association CEO Bryan Nye stressed the necessity of high speed rail in response to Albanese’s comments.
“Global experience shows that high speed rail would change dramatically Australia for the better, effectively bringing our cities and regions closer together,” he said.
“People want the new infrastructure but they tend to object to it for all sorts of different reasons, and we can't do that, Sydney needs new infrastructure desperately.
“It's not a dream, it's just a reality of when we get it.”
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