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A 'drawcard' trackless tram will strengthen the case for a fast train from Perth to the state's South West region, a transport expert says.
Ahead of today's Budget, the Commonwealth has promised $4 million to partially fund an $8 million investigation into the Perth to Bunbury Faster Rail Corridor.
The idea of a high-speed rail service was first flagged in 2008, but no firm plans have been drawn up.
Despite promising to continue planning for high-speed rail ahead of the last election, the WA Government is yet to allocate the remainder of the funding.
However, Bunbury MP Don Punch said he welcomed the Budget pledge.
"Doing the work now means we can set the corridor aside — particularly in the metropolitan area — and make sure it's not built on," Mr Punch said.
He said he expected the study to look at the possibility of building a second rail line to Bunbury, in addition to the existing Australind train line, but admitted a new line would be up to 20 years away.
Train and tram 'drawcard'In addition to a fast train, researchers at Curtin University are exploring the potential for a trackless tram between Bunbury and Busselton.
The idea is for a solar and wind powered tram to start at the Bunbury train station and provide links to the CBD, beaches and to popular attractions further down the coast such as the Busselton Jetty.
Professor of sustainability Peter Newman said the train and tram services would complement each other.
"Getting on a train from the centre of Perth … taking a very quick trip and then being in the South West for a really good tourist tram experience, I think that would add significantly to the case for having a fast train," Professor Newman said.
"It is potentially a real drawcard in itself."
'Expensive' and a long way offSouth West Liberal MP Steve Thomas agreed with Mr Punch that it would be a long time before a new rail line could be set up, and estimated the project itself could cost up to $3 billion dollars.
He said studies in the past had found the train could also be costly to run.
"Either the tickets would have to be prohibitively expensive or the State Government would pay a lot of money every year to subsidise tickets to Perth," he said.
However, Professor Newman, who was involved in the start-up of the Perth-to-Mandurah train line, said he was confident the new fast train would be viable and pay for itself.
"Many people said there will be no more than 600 people use that train and it will not pay for itself for centuries," he said.
"Well it did pay for itself very quickly because it's carrying the equivalent of eight trains of traffic… because it's fast and it's a very attractive service."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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