Moorebank Intermodal Terminal. Graphic: MICL

Moorebank hub gets green light

A 1.5 million TEU intermodal terminal will be built in Sydney’s south west after the Commonwealth came to terms with Aurizon and Qube Logistics to build a site by 2017.

Aurizon and Qube’s joint venture, the Sydney Intermodal Terminal Alliance (SIMTA), owns a plot of land alongside Commonwealth property, in Moorebank.

Authorities have for some time been investigating an intermodal container terminal at the site, with the government’s Moorebank Intermodal Company (MIC) selecting SIMTA as preferred bidder for the project in early 2014.

The deals announced on Thursday combine the SIMTA- and Commonwealth-owned land under a land trust, and lease that land to SIMTA under a 99-year lease.

Moorebank is seen as one solution to Sydney’s freight traffic growth over the medium to long term. With waterfront real-estate at Port Botany running out, Port Botany will add to the list of existing off-site distribution hubs designed to take some pressure off the road infrastructure at the port itself.

The project also achieves the state’s long-term goal of putting more freight on rail: with the link between Port Botany and Moorebank being by rail, there will theoretically be less trucks visiting the port directly in the future.

Moorebank will have import-export capacity up to 1.05 million TEU* a year and a separate inter-state terminal with capacity for up to 500,000 TEU a year. Around 850,000 square metres of integrated warehousing will be built.

SIMTA will provide up to $1.5 billion in private investment for the project while the MIC will provide $370 million, instead of the original $900 million.

“Combining the site into a single development optimises the outcomes and minimises taxpayer exposure,” federal infrastructure and regional development minister Warren Truss said in a joint statement with finance minister Mathias Cormann.

“This new, major interstate terminal will get more freight off our highways and onto rail, driving significant improvements in national productivity.

“There will be open access for rail operators and other users of the Moorebank facility to promote competition.”

The government expects total economic benefits of the project at close to $9 billion, by relieving traffic congestion on Sydney’s roads, reducing costs to business, and achieving better environmental outcomes.

The Moorebank site has rail access to Port Botany via the Southern Sydney Freight Line, which runs from McArthur to Birrong, and the state rail network.

Moorebank sits on the M5 motorway and is approximately 4.5km to the east of the M7 motorway. These two motorways, with other highways to the east, effectively create a semi-rectangular motorway system around Sydney that is also intersected by major “A” roads around its circumference.

Canberra estimates that 1,300 jobs will be created during the construction phase with up to 7,700 jobs created when the precinct goes live.

Subject to planning and environmental approvals by Commonwealth and state authorities, work on the project will begin this year. The import-export terminal is expected to start operations in late 2017 while the interstate terminal is planned to operate from 2019.


With Oliver Probert.

*The twenty-foot equivalent unit (often TEU or teu) is an inexact unit of  container volume. Shipping containers typically come in twenty-foot (1 TEU) or forty-foot (2 TEU) lengths.

Revitalising Newcastle. Photo: Revitalising Newcastle

Newcastle MP wants more info on rail drilling

Local member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp says the state government needs to give the city more information on the geotechnical drilling being undertaken along the closed down heavy rail line.

The heavy rail line into Newcastle was shut down last year, as part of a long term project to install a light rail network through Newcastle.

Many local residents were not happy with the closure, and the removal of the line is subject to a court appeal, set to take place in July.

Despite this, UrbanGrowth NSW is going ahead with ground testing along the corridor, over the next month, between 7am and 5.30pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays if necessary.

While the government department has assured residents that work will create minimal impact on residents, Crakanthorp has asked why work is being done on a corridor which might not change in the future, should a court appeal find in favour of keeping the line.

“If they’re geotechnical drilling there, you’d assume they’re looking to see if there’s any mine subsidence under there,” Crakanthorp told the ABC.

“But you wonder why they’re doing that because there’s an appeal in the court over the rail line in July.

“At least the government should wait until the outcome of that court case is known.”

Crakanthorp, a Labor MP, doesn’t thing the government is telling the people of Newcastle enough about its plans for the corridor.

“The government is doing a large amount of drilling from Worth Place to Watt Street, which is not an area that seems to be specified for a great deal of development,” he said.

“So we’re just wondering what is going on there.

“The government originally said it would be green space, then they said there’d be cafes, then large development.

”What are their plans now? Non-stop high-rise development from Worth Place to Watt Street?

“They need to come clean on what is going on down there.

“[State Premier] Mike Baird called this the people’s project, yet the people of Newcastle are being kept in the dark.”

Melbourne tram. Photo State Government Victoria

Five findings of the infrastructure audit

Infrastructure Australia last week released its Australian Infrastructure Audit Report, and there’s a lot in it for the rail industry to digest.

The report, billed as Australia’s first-ever “comprehensive infrastructure audit,” suggests a huge amount of work is needed to get Australian infrastructure on pace with economic and population growth.

Five key factors stood out for the rail industry.

 

  1. There is a serious need for investment in transport

Releasing the report on Friday, Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell said Australia must act now before demand pressures affect living standards and economic competitiveness.

“Experiences of transport networks failing to keep pace with demand, water quality standards being uneven, energy costs being too high, telecommunication services being outdated, or freight corridors being neglected are now so common that they necessitate a strategic response,” Birrell said.

Infrastructure Australia said in its report that without investment in new transport capacity and/or means of managing demand, car travel times in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra are expected to increase by at least 20% in the most congested corridors by 2031.

“In some cases, travel times could more than double,” the report warns.

“Demand for public transport in the capital cities (measured by passenger kilometres travelled) is set to rise by 55% in Sydney, 121% in Melbourne, and an average of 89% across all capital cities.

“Unless peak period passenger loads are managed and capacity is increased, commuters in all capital cities will see more services experiencing ‘crush loadings’, where peak demand exceeds capacity.”

Both public transport and road infrastructure will need to be expanded to meet this growth in demand, the audit found.

 

  1. Australia needs a long-term infrastructure plan

The report says Australia would benefit from a strong and consistent pipeline of well-planned infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure Australia says a consistent pipeline “would provide greater certainty for infrastructure constructors and investors, and provide the basis for a well-resourced environment for project procurement and informed decision making”.

It said state and federal governments need to take action to make major project procurement more efficient.

This will reduce administrative burdens, and streamline assessment processes across governments, the report says.

“Integrated infrastructure and land-use planning is essential if there is to be strategic decision-making at all levels of government.

“Whilst there have been improvements in this area, progress has been slow in securing the many benefits that will be gained from an integrated approach to managing infrastructure challenges.”

A key benefit of a more cooperative approach to infrastructure, the report says, would be the establishment of best practice principles for infrastructure planning, procurement, delivery and operation.

“Improvements in infrastructure project appraisal and project selection (including the consistent use and transparent reporting of cost benefit analyses) are necessary if Australians expectations are to be realised,” the report explains.

 

  1. Rail freight’s share will grow in the future, due to bulk

Infrastructure Australia predicts the mode share of rail freight within the national freight task to grow over the period to 2031, but says this will not be due to a major shift of container freight onto the rail network.

“This is mostly due to increased haulage of minerals for export,” the independent body explained.

“Demand for national rail infrastructure is projected to grow, especially in WA, Queensland and NSW.”

WA accounts for roughly 50% of the national rail freight value-add, due to mining in the Pilbara, and the audit projects that the value-add from rail freight services will grow to $9.5 billion in 2031, an increase of 75%.

 

  1. Total public and private funding needs to increase

As a proportion of GDP, spending on infrastructure has been higher in the last five years than in the preceding 20 years.

But the audit finds that fiscal pressures – such as the need to fund health, retirement and other social welfare programs – mean governments will struggle to maintain current levels of infrastructure spending in the medium to long term.

“Private investment in infrastructure has grown, with more private owners and developers of infrastructure,” the audit recognises.

“Creating the conditions for further private investment is an important strategy in meeting future infrastructure needs.”

To do this, the report says, Australia will have to increase the amount of funding available from both public and private sources, to maintain and grow our infrastructure networks.

“Current funding arrangements are unsustainable,” Infrastructure Australia said, “particularly for the transport sector.”

The audit says reform is needed.

“While users contribute a proportion of the cost of transport infrastructure through licensing and registration, fuel excise, public transport tickets and freight network access charges, governments still pay the lion’s share.

“The current system therefore relies on limited revenue sources … and it does not ensure that the revenue is directed to transport outlays, new projects or improved performance of networks.”

If there is no change to this, the report warns, maintenance of existing assets would need to be cut back, and new projects aimed at maintaining or raising levels of service in our cities and regions would likely not proceed.

 

  1. We need to sweat our assets

Infrastructure Australia urged a newfound focus on resilience and improved maintenance, noting that existing assets will need to be maximised to cope with future growth.

“Maintenance and resilience are major themes in the audit,” the independent body said on Friday.

“Most of the infrastructure that Australians will use in 2031 has already been built, but maintenance standards are often below par.

“Service providers will need to improve whole-of-life asset management processes, including adequate long-term funding strategies, to ensure infrastructure networks are able to provide reasonable levels of service in the future.”

 

Railroad turnout. Photo: Creative Commons / Centpacrr

Abbott’s road bias is bad for the earth

COMMENT: Conservation expert Ian Lowe says the Abbott Government’s transport policy is more evidence that it is not interested in environmental reform.


The 2015-16 Budget is very disappointing in the broad area of environmental protection. Last year’s cuts to important bodies like Environmental Defenders Offices have not been reversed. Even the funding of a core Coalition initiative, the Green Army, has been cut by A$73 million over four years.

While it is not in the Budget, government members are running a parliamentary inquiry which seems to be aimed at removing charitable status from environmental groups, sparked by claims from the Minerals Council of Australia that environmental objections are adding to the cost of new projects.

The argument being run by some Coalition politicians is that it is quite acceptable for community groups to plant trees or rehabilitate degraded landscapes, but unreasonable for them to campaign against logging old-growth forests or degrading the land with new open-cut mines. Presumably they hope that removing charitable status would make it less likely that the public would donate to environmental groups, reducing their capacity to embarrass the government or slow down new proposals with destructive impacts.

Like the withdrawal of funds from EDOs, it suggests that the government really believes its rhetoric about “green tape”, the claim that we have been over-zealous about protecting the environment and consequently have held back desirable investments. On the contrary, successive reports on the state of the environment and ABS reports on measures of progress all show that the most significant environmental indicators are all getting worse while the economy continues to grow.

While there is an extra A$100 million over four years for measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the cuts to Landcare and the continued promotion of the export coal industry put the reef under increased pressure. There is no new money for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which has been making a real difference.

Bill Shorten’s Budget in Reply was no better on environmental issues. While there was a welcome commitment to funding science and science education, which contrasts with the apparent government hostility to the science which keeps providing inconvenient evidence about the environmental costs of current approaches, I did not hear any concrete plans to apply science to protect the integrity of our ecosystems.

Critically, the government’s budget still shows no sign that it is taking seriously our responsibility to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The allocation for the Emissions Reduction Fund will not meet even the present inadequate target, let alone the sort of goal Australia will be expected to take to the Paris talks later this year.

There is no funding for urban public transport, but the government will spend billions on roads. This is possibly not surprising, given that the ministers who drew up and approved the Budget have probably not been on a train, bus or tram for decades, but it is gross negligence in the context of urban development.

Not only is public transport critical for millions of city-dwellers today; it is the only credible way of coping with the increasing numbers in our cities that the government is proposing.

Transport also links directly to questions of energy use, urban air quality and our contribution to climate change.

Unless there is a dramatic shift to electric cars or hydrogen vehicles, road traffic will continue to burn petroleum fuels, polluting the city atmosphere and driving climate change.

A political fight on transport policy is looming in Victoria, where the budget retains A$3 billion for the cancelled East-West Link road project. The Commonwealth government is reportedly demanding that Victoria return the A$1.5 billion that was allocated before the state election.

With Prime Minister Tony Abbott having said before that election that it would be a referendum on the road project, the new Victorian government feels it has a mandate to use the funds for other transport projects.

The Coalition’s polling in Victoria is looking dire, so it will be interesting to see if they try to take transport money from the state government.

Public transport not only uses energy much more efficiently, it can also be driven by cleaner forms of energy from the sun and wind.

While ordinary Australians are still voting with their roofs in unprecedented numbers, installing more solar panels in the first quarter of this year than in the corresponding period last year, the government’s attack on the Renewable Energy Target has predictably all but halted investment in large-scale wind and solar projects.

The Opposition has made very significant, arguably borderline irresponsible, concessions to try to end the impasse, but the Coalition’s proposed conditions of allowing forestry residues to count as renewable energy and requiring further reviews every two years has proved a bridge too far.

While the government is openly attacking investment in clean energy technologies, the budget made no attempt to wind back the massive subsidies of fossil fuel supply and use. In fact, a question in the Senate revealed a possible further subsidy that was not noticed in the initial discussions of the Budget. The promised multibillion-dollar fund for infrastructure in northern Australia could be used to pump public funds into the struggling proposals for massive new coal mines in Queensland.

With financial institutions increasingly unwilling to support projects that look dubious investments in strictly financial terms, finance minister Mathias Cormann refused to rule out the possibility that the infrastructure fund could be used to help kickstart coal mines. He repeated Abbott’s famous assertion that “coal is good”, not just pointing to the export revenue the mines provide but also claiming that new coal mines will “lift millions out of poverty”.

Underlying the deafening silence about climate change in the budget and the continuing promotion of coal exports is the lingering suspicion that the government isn’t serious about the most urgent global environmental problem. The latest intervention by Abbott’s chief business adviser Maurice Newman bordered on farce, not just denying the science but claiming that the world’s scientists are part of a gigantic conspiracy organised by the United Nations. That assertion makes ideas that the Moon landings were faked on a back lot in Hollywood, or the CIA organised the 2011 attacks on the World Trade Centre, seem comparatively rational.

More worrying than Newman’s bizarre public statement was a subsequent letter to the editor from a Coalition politician, Senator Cory Bernadi, praising Newman for his contribution to the debate. That reveals openly that sections of the Coalition party room are still in denial about the scientific evidence which has now been clear for decades.

In 1992, the Council of Australian Governments adopted the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSESD. It committed the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments to a pattern of development that would not reduce opportunities for future generations. The current emphasis on minerals exports sits uncomfortably with this goal, as it is systematically reducing the capital stock available to future generations to provide money for this generation.

More fundamentally, the NSESD says explicitly that economic development should recognise the need to protect our unique Australian biodiversity and maintain the integrity of our ecological systems. We are still losing biodiversity, mainly because of the destruction of habitat, compounded by the impacts of introduced species and now increasingly by the changes to the climate.

The Budget and the Opposition’s response suggests that neither side recognises the imperatives of the NSESD. The government clearly thinks that the economy is supremely important and that the integrity of our environment is an optional extra. What is portrayed as a path back to surplus makes several heroic assumptions, most fundamentally ignoring the inevitable limits to growth and the impacts of proposed economic developments on our ecological systems. People often find economic forecasting a bit depressing. But what is most depressing is the diminishing prospect of a sustainable future.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor, School of Science at Griffith University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wentworth Falls station - Photo: Creative Commons / Abesty

Wentworth Falls upgrades gain planning approval

Transport for NSW is assessing tenders to find a construction partner, after planning approval was received for improvements at Wentworth Falls Station, on the Main Western Line in the Blue Mountains.

“This is great news for Wentworth Falls and other Blue Mountains residents who are keen to see the station become accessible to all customers for the first time,” transport minister Andrew Constance said.

“They will benefit from three new lifts providing easy access to the footbridge and platforms from new station forecourts.

“We’re also upgrading footpaths and landscaping, new kiss and ride areas, bike parking facilities and accessible toilets.”

Once a contractor is on board, the project will progress to detailed design and major construction.

The plans for the station upgrade were publicly exhibited last year.

Transport for NSW says all feedback was considered by the project team and will be used to guide the design as it develops in the future.

Transport says the existing heritage features of the station area have been taken into consideration, with the NSW Government set to work with heritage consultants as the design is progressed to ensure characteristics are preserved.

The planned retention of mature trees will also assist in maintaining the character of the area, Transport says, with the added benefit of screening the new infrastructure – reportedly a reoccurring topic in community feedback.

The station improvements are part of the Transport Access Program, a NSW Government plan which has developed lift and other access improvements at several stations around the NSW network.

 

Cowra Lines

No suitor for Cowra Lines renewal

NSW minister for roads, maritime and freight Duncan Gay says the government can’t find a suitable tenderer to restore and run the Cowra Lines in the state’s central west.

After appeals from local communities for a restoration and re-opening of the lines, a tender process was opened, but it seems no-one is interested in doing the work on the government’s terms.

“The tender process revealed there was too much uncertainty in the ability of the tenderers to return the lines to full service and run a commercially sustainable business without significant taxpayer support,” Gay explained.

“An extensive evaluation including advice from independent experts concluded neither of the two proposals received for the recent Cowra Lines Request for Tender had adequately addressed the tender criteria.

“Transport for NSW received two tenders to restore, maintain and operate The Cowra Lines but neither was found to sufficiently demonstrate they could manage the lines on a commercially sustainable basis.

“The tenders were thoroughly assessed against criteria such as a strong business case, technical ability, financial backing and the ability to manage operational risks.”

Gay said Transport for NSW would maintain a close watching brief over how The Cowra Lines, as well as other non-operational rail lines in NSW, could potentially be brought back into operation where sustainable freight demand exists.

He said further options for bringing The Cowra Lines back into service may also be explored as part of the government’s Fixing Country Rail program.

“As part of our Rebuilding NSW Plan, the Government has committed $400 million to the Fixing Country Rail program, while $153 million will be invested over the next three years to continue fast tracking repairs and upgrades to the 996 kilometres of grain lines across NSW,” Gay explained.

The initial evaluation of the Cowra Lines tender identified a preferred tenderer.

But a detailed review by the tender panel and independent experts has shown the level of risk associated with the preferred tenderers’ proposal was too great to be acceptable, according to Transport for NSW.

The Cowra Lines are 200km of non-operational rail lines between Blayney and Harden, and Koorawatha and Greenethorpe.

They were progressively closed between 2007 and 2009 due to safety concerns and low freight volumes.

An estimated investment of more than $30 million would be required to restore the infrastructure, with further ongoing maintenance costs estimated at more than $2 million each year. Transport for NSW launched an open tender offering a fixed term licence to restore, operate and maintain The Cowra Lines in March 2014.

“over the past three years we have worked closely with the Blayney, Cowra, Weddin, Harden and Young councils and the private sector to investigate whether the Cowra Lines could be reopened and made commercially viable again,” Gay continued.

“While the tender process did not result in The Cowra Lines being leased to a private sector operator, it has generated market interest and provided valuable information that may assist in bringing the lines back into operation at some point in the future.”

rail damage - Transport NSW

ARTC re-opens North Coast

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has re-opened the North Coast network between Telarah and Dungog.

ARTC said last week that it estimated being able to re-open the network over the weekend, and held to that estimate, opening the line on Saturday, May 9.

“The North Coast line section of track between Telarah and Dungog reopened this morning according to schedule and freight, coal and passenger services are now returning to operations with the first trains passing through this morning successfully,” the corporation said.

Significant sections of ballast were washed away on the line during heavy rains which led to flooding in late April. In some sections, entire portions of land were washed away beneath the rail infrastructure, contributing to the hefty closure.

The ARTC closed both the North Coast and Hunter networks following the flooding, but was able to re-open the Hunter network earlier than the North Coast, which was more significantly damaged.

“ARTC would like to thank our customers, local communities and stakeholders for their patience and assistance while repair and recovery works have been completed over the last three weeks,” the corporation said on May 9.

“Our focus will now turn to ensure the safe and gradual return to normal operations.

“ARTC also has post-site tidy up and remediation works in and around Tocal and surrounding communities planned for coming weeks during normal construction hours.”

Queensland flooding. Photo: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services - QFES / Facebook

Did Moreton Bay Rail project cause flooding?

The Queensland Government has commissioned an independent investigation into local residents’ concerns that flooding which hit over 100 houses in Moreton Bay last week was caused, in part, by the new construction of the Moreton Bay Rail Link.

Deputy premier and minister for infrastructure Jackie Trad on Tuesday announced the review, following a meeting with Moreton Bay Regional Council mayor Allan Sutherland, and the director general of transport and main roads, Neil Scales.

“Locals close to the project, the Member for Murrumba and Mayor Allan Sutherland asked the government to look into the matter and that is exactly what we are doing,” Trad said.

“While the rain was unprecedented, we could not ignore concerns that the Moreton Bay Rail Link project may have contributed to the flooding in Rothwell and Deception Bay.”

Trad has commissioned the firm SMEC to conduct the review.

“SMEC is one of the Top 100 international design firms and has operated for more than 40 years, and has worked on previous projects including the Snowy Mountains Scheme – Australia’s largest infrastructure project,” Trad said.

“Comprehensive modelling was previously completed for the Moreton Bay Rail corridor.

“This event was extremely severe with more than 300mm of rain falling within three hours.”

The Palaszczuk Government has also announced further financial support for communities hit the hardest by Friday’s storm.

Mayor Sutherland welcomed the announcement of the review.

“The community has raised what are quite real concerns about any potential impact of rail works on flooding in the Deception Bay, Rothwell and Mango Hill area,” Sutherland reported.

“I am confident a thorough investigation of those works and any potential impacts will be undertaken as part of the State Government’s review.”

Murrumba MP, Chris Whiting also welcomed the action of the Queensland Government.

“Many residents that I spoke to over the weekend were concerned about the potential impact by works associated the Moreton Bay Rail Link and I know they will be eagerly awaiting the findings.”

The investigation is expected to be completed within 12 weeks.

rail damage - Transport NSW

ARTC brings North Coast re-opening forward

After “significant progress” repairing its heavily-damaged North Coast network in the past week, the Australian Rail Track Corporation has brought forward the re-opening of the interstate line.

The ARTC now believes it can open the North Coast line between Telarah and Taree for operations as of 10am this Saturday, May 9.

“This will allow a full return to Sydney-Brisbane, export coal and passenger rail services from this timeframe onwards,” the ARTC said on Tuesday.

The North Coast network, along with the Hunter coal network, were both knocked out of action late in April by extreme weather and flooding.

Crucial to the export of coal from northern NSW, the Hunter network was reopened roughly a week after it had been shut.

But the North Coast line, which sustained significant damage, including land and ballast washaways, in almost 50 sites, has remained closed into May.

The ARTC late last week announced it would not be able to re-open the line until May 17. Operator Aurizon sent home its staff from its Brisbane-Sydney operations until May 18.

But the good news over the weekend means services to the interstate network may return earlier than expected.

“ARTC made significant progress with repair works between Telarah and Dungog over the weekend and as a result we are able to bring forward the forecast to return the ARTC network along the mid North Coast operations, with some certainty,” the ARTC said.

The ARTC said the forecast has been brought forward due to heavy rains in the area last week fortunately avoiding work sites, as well round-the-clock work periods and the ability to deliver truck movements from Martin’s Creek Quarry, in double shifts, 18-hours a day.

The cancellation of the local Tocal Agricultural Days also helped, the ARTC added, as it allowed for consistent access over three days through the main access point to the major washaway sites.

“We cannot thank the Agricultural College enough for their assistance over the last two weeks in allowing us access to the main repair sites,” the ARTC said, “their support has been immense in allowing us to return operations quickly, safely and ahead of schedule.

“Following completion of civil works later this week, there will be final track testing and certification requirements before the track can be formally reopened.”

The ARTC said its operations staff is underway planning a return to service with its customers, and will manage a staged, balanced return to operations from Saturday morning onwards.

Anthony Albanese, ASA

Albo rips Greens’ ‘fantasy world’ transport policy

The NSW election took place over a month ago, but it’s not too late for federal shadow transport and infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese to lampoon the Greens for their pre-election transport policy.

“One of the advantages of representing a minor political party is that because you aren’t trying to win government, you never have to deliver on your promises,” Albanese wrote in an op-ed for The Australian on Tuesday, which he later re-published on his own site.

“But that fact should not excuse politicians from minor parties from offering genuine, workable solutions to policy challenges facing the community.”

Prior to the election, the Greens proposed a plan which included shutting down the existing Kingsford Smith airport, cancelling development of the second airport at Badgerys Creek, and building a new airport outside the Sydney basin, connected to the city via a high speed rail line.

Albanese isn’t a fan.

“If this were put in place, Sydney would be the only global city without an airport,” he observed.

“It’s the stuff of fantasy. It has no place in the world of serious policy debate.”

Albanese said that individual, “realistic” Greens party members know the policy is not a practical one.

“Yet the policy remains and enables the party to campaign for zero impact of aviation activity anywhere,” the former deputy prime minister wrote, “despite the fact modern aviation is a driver of economic activity.”

Albanese accused the Greens of “giving up” on the decades-long debate surrounding Sydney’s aviation needs. He said that before opposing the existing plans for another airport at Badgerys Creek, the party opposed the proposal to build the airport at an alternative site.

“The Greens opposed Wilton, too,” Albanese recalled.

“In the light of this, their proposal to banish Sydney’s airport to an unnamed site and to link it to the city with a high-speed rail line cannot be taken seriously.

“The comprehensive study into the plan to build a high-speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra found that 67km of tunnelling in Sydney would be necessary for it to operate.

“It’s a serious project worthy of support. But, like any major infrastructure project, high-speed rail would affect communities along the route. Tunnels require ­exhausts. Construction creates ­inconvenience.

“Delivering high-speed rail, just like building the Badgerys Creek airport, will require explanation of the benefits and broad support across the political spectrum.

“Indeed, it is likely that the challenges of high-speed rail construction will create issues over a far wider area than the second airport.”

Albanese accused the Greens party of being more interested in exploiting local communities’ fear of change for political gain, than it is on acting on principle.

“Given the Greens’ record on opposing a second Sydney airport, opposing the Moorebank Intermodal – which will take freight off trucks and on to rail – as well as opposing safety upgrades to the Pacific Highway, it would be remarkable if they did not confect reasons to oppose high-speed rail in practice,” he pointed out.

“When it comes to economic infrastructure, the Greens are political opportunists.”