May 27, 2014

Visionless Abbott dumps high-speed rail

Tony Abbott has turned his back on a future high-speed rail link down Australia’s eastern coast.

Today a Senate Budget Estimates committee heard confirmation that the Federal Budget included a $52 million cut to funding allocated by the previous Labor Government to begin the long-term planning process for a link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

The money was to have been used to begin to secure the corridor needed before it is consumed by urban sprawl.

It would also have funded the creation of a planning authority including representatives of affected states and the Australian Capital Territory as well as rail experts and council representatives.

High-speed rail is a long-term project that will revolutionise interstate travel.

A Labor-commissioned feasibility study into the the 1748km line found that for every dollar spent on HSR on the first section between Sydney and Melbourne, the project would return $2.15 in economic benefit to our nation.

A project of this scale provides vision and long-term commitment and it is now clear that Tony Abbott has neither, even though the demands of a carbon-constrained economy will only strengthen the case for the project in coming years.

Creation of the authority had been recommended by the previous Labor Government’s High-Speed Rail advisory group, which included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott.

Mr Abbott scrapped the advisory group not long after taking office.

In one of Transport Minister Warren Truss’s first speeches after last year’s election, he told an Australasian Rail Association Conference that he supported high-speed rail.

This cut shows otherwise.