Nov 8, 2013

Abbott abandons high-speed rail

The Prime Minister’s cuts-at-any-cost approach to government will halt progress toward the construction of a high-speed rail link from Brisbane to Melbourne in a short-sighted blow to Australian nation-building.

Tony Abbott’s decision to scrap the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, which includes former deputy prime minister and railway expert Tim Fischer, Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott and Australasian Railway Association chief executive Bryan Nye, also highlights his contempt for the advice of policy experts outside government.

Mr Abbott seems to think of himself as the repository of all knowledge.

We know Mr Abbott said no to everything when he was in opposition.

Now he is saying no to expert advice on a project that could revolutionise travel in this country, turbo-charge regional development, boost the economy and create jobs.

In government, Labor commissioned a high-speed rail study which found a link between Brisbane and Melbourne would cost $114 billion and, if operational by 2065, would carry 84 million passengers a year.

While such a project would be expensive and require investment from states and the private sector, Labor was serious enough to begin long-term planning. We went to the September 7 election promising to begin the process of securing a corridor.

Last year Mr Fischer told The Border Mail the link would be “a huge leap forward’’ for decentralisation and that long-term planning was vital to prevent the corridor from being absorbed by urban sprawl.

Despite his absurd pre-election claim that he wants to be known as the infrastructure prime minister, Mr Abbott is not interested in investing in rail projects.

He believes the Commonwealth has no role to play in investing in urban public transport rail, is flatly refusing to spend a cent on vital passenger rail projects like the Brisbane Cross River Rail and the Melbourne Metro.

Both these projects would ease urban congestion; boosting productivity and creating jobs.

Mr Abbott doesn’t get it. And he won’t even listen to the experts.