Dec 9, 2013

Labor introduces high-speed rail bill

Labor has introduced a Bill to Parliament to begin preserving the corridor for the future construction of a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne.

Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s Private Member’s Bill would also create an authority to oversee planning for the project.

Mr Albanese introduced the Bill to the House of Representatives today, calling on Parliament to begin planning now for the project, found to be viable in a study he released in April.

“We can anticipate that an increasing population and the growing need for a carbon-constrained economy will drive the economics of this project ever more positively over time,’’ Mr Albanese said.

“A challenge of this scale needs serious forward planning. The first step is to begin to secure the corridor.

The Bill would establish an 11-member planning authority including representatives of the Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victorian governments as well as representatives of local government, the Australasian Railways Association and other industry experts.

“Planning is not a political issue,’’ Mr Albanese said. “It’s just commonsense. Big ideas don’t happen without leadership.

“The states, councils and landholders along the possible route have a very direct interest in ensuring that, if this project is viable, an orderly a process is in place to bring it to fruition. 

“Vision is important in governing nations. Nation builders need the ability to both anticipate and create the future.

The High Speed Rail Study Phase 2 Report, found population and employment growth along the east coast of Australia in coming years would challenge the capacity of our existing modes of transport.

Travel on the east coast of Australia was forecast to grow about 1.8 per cent per year over the next two decades and to increase by about 60 per cent by 2035.

Further, the report said that east coast trips will double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065.

Road and air travel alone will not cope with this growth.

The report found that once the line was fully operational from 2065, high-speed rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers each year.

People would be able to travel Melbourne and Sydney in less than three hours – the same duration of an express trip from Sydney and Sydney-Brisbane.

The report found the optimal staging would involve building the Sydney-Melbourne line first, starting with the Sydney-Canberra sector.

This would produce a positive economic benefit of $2.15 for every dollar spent.

Later, building would continue from Canberra to Melbourne, Newcastle to Sydney, Brisbane to the Gold Coast and the Gold Coast to Newcastle.

The project would be a significant regional economic development initiative and would pass through centres including the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury Wodonga and Shepparton.

Mr Albanese’s High Speed Rail Authority Bill 2013 is the first Private Member’s Bill to be presented to the 44th Parliament.