Calls increase for Sydney to Canberra high-speed train

Pressure is increasing on the federal government to commit to a Sydney to Canberra high-speed train, with Stockland’s Mark Steinert pitching in via the Financial Review this week.

“A high-speed rail service between Canberra and Sydney would have a significant, positive impact on productivity, given the frequent travel between, and national importance, of these two cities,” Steinert, CEO and managing director for Australia’s largest property developer, told the paper.

“Investing in high-speed rail boosts economic activity through jobs growth, productivity gains, reduction in congestion and sustainable, improved mobility.”

The most important factor about fast rail, said Steinert, is its ability to create equal opportunity.

“High-speed rail can be a connector and equaliser – giving people improved access to major capital cities or activity hubs, opening up possibilities for greater participation in education, jobs and cultural experiences, helping people create better lives with more opportunities,” Steinert said.

In 2017, Infrastructure Australia reported that the early acquisition of corridors for seven rail projects on its priority list, including high-speed rail, would save the public $11 billion in land acquisition and construction costs,

There is support for the project across governments. NSW’s premier Gladys Berejiklian committed $5 million in funding to investigate high-speed routes between Sydney and Canberra via the future Badgerys Creek Airport, while ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has said he would call on the federal government to fund the high-speed rail link before the next election.

Minister for population, cities and urban infrastructure Alan Tudge said the government’s 20 year Faster Rail plan, released early this year, identified the Sydney to Canberra route as a potential corridor in future years.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has said there is long-standing interest from China, Japan and Europe to build the rail line.

“The Japan Railway Company – they’ve had an office here [in Sydney] since the 1980s waiting for something to happen,” Albanese said earlier this year.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King is also pushing the project.

“High-speed rail is a game changer for real decentralisation, with benefits flowing to both the city and the country,” King said.

Geelong to get a high speed rail link

An implementation plan is now in place for a high-speed rail that would enable a 32-minute journey from Geelong Station to Melbourne, which sit roughly 75 kilometres apart.

“That would completely transform this region in the process, building that connectivity,” said Australian Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge, announcing the launch of the Geelong City Deal Implementation Plan on Tuesday.

The cities could be linked by trains travelling between 250 and 300 kilometres an hour under the plan.

Funding for the project will be covered by both the federal and Victorian governments, who are currently in discussions regarding the Geelong project which will integrate with the Melbourne Airport Rail Link project.

Initial construction work linking Southern Cross to Sunshine will constitute the most complex and expensive part of the project, according to Tudge.

Altogether it is a $10 billion project, said Tudge, with  $6 billion of these funds going towards Southern Cross to Sunshine station work, covered by funding for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link which is estimated to cost between $8 billion and $13 billion.

A $50 million business case is currently underway for the Geelong project, according to the state government.

Victorian Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes said all three levels of government, including local, were committed to achieving a shared vision for Geelong over the next 10 years through the City Deal.

“The City Deal is expected to inject $370 million into Geelong and the broader Great Ocean Road region,” said Tudge.

Infrastructure sector calls on Coalition to convert rhetoric into action

Industry think tank Infrastructure Partnerships Australia has called on the Federal Coalition Government to ensure it keeps to the promises laid out in its 2019 Budget following its surprise election win last week.

The group’s chief executive Adrian Dwyer lauded both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Bill Shorten for their respective efforts in the election before commenting that the government’s approach to infrastructure would “define the success” of its term.

The Coalition’s funding package includes national initiatives such as a $2.2 billion road safety package; $4 billion urban congestion fund; $2 billion fast rail plan that includes a high-speed link between Geelong and Melbourne, and several further fast rail business cases in eastern Australia; the Melbourne-to-Brisbane Inland Rail project; and the $5 billion Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

“The 2019 Budget showed that the Coalition Government takes infrastructure seriously, and now that rhetoric needs to convert into action,” Dwyer said.

“In this new term of parliament there are a number of major issues that will need to be front and centre on the Prime Minister’s infrastructure agenda.”

The Coalition Government has lifted total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion above forward estimates, and has a long-term plan to raise transport infrastructure investment to $100 billion over the next 10 years.

While Dwyer praised these plans, he added that the Coalition would have to tackle reform challenges such as settling energy policy to end the investment strike, boosting productivity with “big ticket infrastructure reforms” and address road funding concerns.

“The Coalition has already taken the sensible step of reversing the recent decline in funding for critical projects, lifting total infrastructure funding to $29.5 billion over the forward estimates,” Dwyer added.

“Much more however will need to be done to ensure that Australia retains its hard-won reputation as a leader and global standard bearer for sound infrastructure policy.”

Labor promises $1bn for Queensland-Victoria high speed rail link

Labor says it will invest $1 billion to begin securing the corridor for a high speed line running from Brisbane to Sydney should it win the federal election on May 18.

The plans for the proposed 1,748km route would build on a feasibility study produced under Julia Gillard’s Labor Government in 2013. The feasibility study suggested that the nation-building project would return over two dollars in public benefit for every dollar invested.

“As Australia’s strong population growth continues in coming years, the already established case for High Speed Rail will become more compelling,” said Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development Anthony Albanese.

“If we start to acquire the corridor now, we will protect it from development and thereby minimise costs.”

The 2013 study envisaged a train capable of travelling up to 350km/h across rail link running between Melbourne and Brisbane via Sydney with spur lines to Canberra and the Gold Coast.

In keeping with the plans laid out in the document, Labor plans to create a High Speed Rail Authority, working with the ACT and east coast state governments to commence land acquisitions and finalise track alignments.

Albanese added that the project would bring regional communities closer to capital cities, increasing commuting and strengthening the case for investment in regional businesses.

“The project will also be an economic game-changer for communities along its path, including the Gold Coast, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, Canberra, Wagga Wagga and Shepparton,” he said.