Passenger Rail

Leak suggests Turnbull planned $1.5bn for high speed rail

Scott Morrison has refused to confirm Coalition plans for $7.6 billion in road and rail spending in marginal seats ahead of the next federal election.

A leaked document, reported by the Herald Sun, details a range of projects listed as “decisions taken but not yet announced” for the 2019 Budget.

The document suggests the Turnbull Government planned to target marginal seats ahead of the next federal election, which must happen before May 18 next year.

There’s a $3.5 billion commitment to a North-South Link connecting rail to the future Western Sydney Airport, which would cross over seven Liberal seats, including the marginal seat of Lindsay.

$112 million of the leaked spending would go to the third stage of Gold Coast Light Rail.

The document also includes $185 million for Adelaide’s tram expansion program, Adelink.

But the bigger-picture rail story included in the leak is a $1.5 billion package for pre-construction work for high speed rail between Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

High speed rail was given a feasibility study by the last Labor Government, but has garnered very little attention from the Coalition in recent years.

The Opposition has criticised the Coalition for not heeding Infrastructure Australia’s warning in 2017 that corridor protection would have to take place sooner, rather than later, if high speed rail is ever to become a reality.

Whether the $1.5 billion in pre-construction spending will still take place under the Coalition’s new leadership, is yet to be confirmed.

New PM Scott Morrison, speaking on Melbourne’s 3AW radio station on Monday, refused to confirm the spending.

“What I will say is infrastructure commitments by my government will be made by me and they will be a reality when I announce them,” Morrison said.

“The infrastructure commitments my government makes are decisions that I will take, and I’ve been in the job … for 11 days.”

Shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese called the leak “damaging”.

“[The leak] is yet another indictment of how dysfunctional the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has become,” Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“What we have here is a range of projects; projects that aren’t new; projects that have been delayed as the Government has cut actual infrastructure investment.”

When it comes to high speed rail, Albo says he’ll believe it when he sees it.

“I am pleased that the Government is somehow belatedly jumping on board that train,” he told reporters. “But the train was at the station in 2013 and they cut funding for the High Speed Rail Authority and for the preservation of the corridor that was in the 2013 Budget.

“I have had Private Members Bills for the High Speed Rail project before the Parliament twice now in the last term and again in this term. We have had to reintroduce it because the Government refuses to debate it.”