Aug 19, 2014

Abbott must get serious about high-speed rail

Tony Abbott must get serious about the proposed High-Speed Rail line linking Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra by beginning to secure the corridor for the ambitious project before it is built out by urban sprawl.

News today that the Government has been meeting executives of international rail companies to talk about High-Speed Rail is welcome.

But talk is cheap. Actions count more.

In the 2014 Budget Mr Abbott slashed $52 million in funding put aside by the previous Labor Government to establish a High-Speed Rail planning authority including representatives of affected states and territories, local government and the rail industry.

Part of that money was to be used to begin to secure the corridor to prevent it being built our by urban sprawl.

While Labor welcomes Mr Abbott’s newfound interest in High-Speed Rail, he needs to do more than have his ministers talk to railway companies.

He needs to act now to capitalise on Labor’s earlier work and begin serious planning, including bringing together affected governments and stakeholders and investing in securing the corridor.

High-Speed Rail will do more than simply providing a low-emissions alternative to air and road travel.

It will also turbo charge regional development, providing an economic shot in the arm of cities along its path including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

It is a project with huge potential to revolutionise interstate travel and unlock massive productivity gains that will benefit the entire national economy.