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Malcolm Turnbull will be asked to consider giving the green light to developers who want to forge ahead with a project for high-speed rail on Australia’s east coast.
Consolidated Land and Rail Australia, an Australian-based consortium that has already secured almost 20,000ha for new development sites along the rail corridor, will present an unsolicited bid to the Prime Minister within the first half of this year.
CLARA wants the first stage of the rail development to run from Melbourne to Shepparton, with a new regional city site near the line to underpin the financial viability of the project. Its 30-year plan would be followed by links between Sydney and Goulburn and Goulburn and Canberra before being finally linked to the Shepparton-Melbourne line by the 2040s.
Using Japanese Maglev technology, rail travel time between Sydney and Melbourne would be just under two hours.
Nick Cleary, chairman of CLARA, said the company was preparing a “detailed bid” for government and said the one ingredient required for it to progress plans for an environmental impact statement was “political will”. “We have had great discussions with government at all levels — they all have showed initial interest in the project but have all requested a more detailed proposal,” Mr Cleary said.
“We are very excited to now be at a point to deliver this required information within the first half of 2017. This is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Snowy Hydro Scheme, of this generation.
“This is the time to show we can still do nation-building projects. The engagement with the private sector will demonstrate the government’s role as an enabler for large scale projects.”
Mr Cleary said the CLARA plan did not just have a single focus but would “solve many problems and provide a tremendous boost to the nation in all ways”. CLARA has signed up Hitachi Consulting Australia as lead consultants to prepare the bid for government.
“We are the only company that has the land under our legal control to be able to implement this nation-building project, and solve so many of the states’ and national issues — including congestion, housing affordability, overcrowding, and how to house the additional 14 million people by 2050,” Mr Cleary said. “And in solving these we are also able to deliver the long-awaited, often-sought, achievable high speed rail at no cost to government.”
While Mr Turnbull has previously expressed support for the $200 billion proposal, Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher is understood to be highly sceptical of the plan. However, after a recent visit to China and South Korea, Industry Minister Greg Hunt said that cabinet wanted to advance the project, saying “now is the time” for Australia to develop high speed rail on Australia’s east coast.
Even if the federal government rebuffs its call for support, CLARA is expected to continue to negotiate with the Victorian and NSW governments and at council level.
John Alexander, chairman of a parliamentary committee examining better transport connectivity, has argued that there exists a “perfect storm” of opportunity for the project to be financially viable.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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