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07 July 2017

How Australia could stuff it up

Australia could have high speed rail by 2056.

AUSTRALIA could stuff up the high speed rail corridor if it does not act now.

The first link between Sydney and Canberra could be finished by 2032, and the whole link from Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne could be completed by 2056.

But there’s a risk if the government does not commit to the rail project now, with development creeping towards the high speed rail corridor along the east coast.

Infrastructure Australia warns this path way should be the most urgent priority.

“The critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres and should be a key focus for NSW, Victorian and federal governments,” Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell said on Friday.

“A co-ordinated approach, involving joint governance arrangements to oversee land acquisition, joint funding commitments and joint agreement regarding land use management measures will keep governments at both levels committed to the urgent task at hand.”

CBD station locations for high speed east coast rail. Picture: Infrastructure Australia

CBD station locations for high speed east coast rail. Picture: Infrastructure AustraliaSource:Supplied

Infrastructure Australia identified seven corridors as national priority and said protecting the land could save taxpayers $10.8 billion.

“Protecting seven of the corridors identified on the recently revised Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion,” Mr Birrell said.

“To put that sum in perspective, it is the equivalent of more than two years’ spending by the Australian Government on land transport such as major roads, railways and local roads.

“If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to 10 times higher.”

In an Infrastructure Australia report, Corridor Protection, it highlighted about 60km of land on the fringe of both Melbourne and Sydney that needs to be preserved for the high speed rail link between Australia’s east coast cities. But developers do pose a risk to high speed rail if they get to it first.

Map shows route of east coast high speed rail. Picture: Infrastructure Australia

Map shows route of east coast high speed rail. Picture: Infrastructure AustraliaSource:Supplied

“Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision,” Mr Birrell said.

“As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase.

“Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations.

“The M4, M5 and M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne and the rail line to Mandurah south of Perth are excellent examples where the foresight to protect infrastructure corridors allowed our cities to thrive and accommodate their growing populations.”

Federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester said protecting and acquiring corridors was primarily a matter for the states and territories.

“The Coalition government is working with the states to ensure they are undertaking long term planning to protect corridors for any potential future rail corridors,” a spokesman said.

“However, any potential high-speed rail between our capital cities is a long way off in the future.”

The government was instead focused on faster rail connections between capital cities and major regional centres.

Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese concedes fast speed rail tracks won’t appear overnight, but says it makes sense to start planning, believing the east coast link will be established within 20 years. “You can’t make a decision today and then get on a train tomorrow. What you can do though, is plan today for tomorrow,” he told ABC radio.

— with AAP

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