Passenger Rail

Coalition puts rail at centre of population plan

The Morrison Government has committed to a population plan which will rely on investment in ‘fast’ regional rail to facilitate decentralisation, but the Labor party wants to know why it won’t simply commit to a high speed rail agenda.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined the Liberal-National Government’s plan for population and congestion on Wednesday, saying it would cap permanent migration at 160,000 per annum, and create a new 23,000 per annum skilled worker visa which would require those workers to live in regional areas for at least three years.

To further facilitate the Coalition’s decentralisation push, ‘fast rail’ would be put on the spending agenda.

“We’ve mentioned fast rail briefly in the documents which have been circulated,” cities and population minister Alan Tudge said at Morrison’s press conference. “That will also be part of our population plan as well and of course that can help with the decentralisation agenda.

“If you connect fast rail to your orbital cities around the big capitals. We’ll have more to say about that at a later time.”

Shadow minister Anthony Albanese criticised the news, noting Labor had long-supported the development of high speed rail, particularly on the east coast, and the Coalition had repeatedly blocked it.

“For nearly six years the Coalition has ignored the comprehensive blueprint for High Speed Rail connecting Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra that was developed by the former Federal Labor Government,” Albanese said.

“The Prime Minister should back genuine High Speed Rail in the national interest.”

The shadow minister also shared a link on his Twitter profile to an AFR report that Labor planned to commit to build high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, first by buying the land corridor required, at a cost of around $2.8 billion, according to Infrastructure Australia analysis.