Scott Morrison’s latest re-announcement of his “faster rail’’ proposal to link big cities with regional centres is too little, too late when it comes to addressing traffic congestion and promoting regional development.
For nearly six years the Coalition has ignored the comprehensive blueprint for High Speed Rail connecting Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra that was developed by the former Federal Labor Government.
This project would revolutionise interstate travel and turbo-charge regional development.
At the same time, the Government has cut investment in public transport in Australia’s big cities, worsening the traffic congestion Mr Morrison now claims he will fix by funding business cases into three proposals for new train lines linking Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to nearby regional centres.
The Prime Minister should back genuine High Speed Rail in the national interest.
In 2013 the former Federal Labor Government published a detailed feasibility study which found a line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would produce $2 of public benefit for every $1 invested.
Based on that study, an independent panel led by former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott recommended the creation of a High Speed Rail Authority to advance the project and begin acquisition of the corridor.
But as soon as it took office the Coalition Government shelved this work and has done nothing since to advance the project.
It has also refused to allow debate on my Private Member’s Bill which would create the High Speed Rail Authority in accordance with the earlier independent advice. I have had to reintroduce this Bill five times since 2014 due to a lack of bi-partisanship.
Now, as the Government scrambles for solutions to traffic congestion exacerbated by its own neglect and lack of infrastructure investment, it pretends it is acting by periodically re-announcing its “faster rail’’ proposal.
Genuine High Speed Rail down Australia’s east coast would allow people to move between capital cities in as little as three hours at speeds of up to 350km per hour.
High Speed Rail would also be a 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.
It would bring these communities closer to capital cities, allowing for increased commuting while also strengthening the case for regional business investment.
Mr Morrison should get on board.
WEDNESDAY, 20 MARCH, 2019