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A FAST train network linking Australia’s east coast capitals and regional centres could be one step closer with the Malcolm Turnbull set to announce a radical new funding plan that could see plans for a high speed rail network for Australia’s east coast finally start to speed up.
The Prime Minister has previously lent support to plans for a fast train in Sydney for starters, with a view to building a larger high-speed rail network, but hasn’t been able to explain how his cash-strapped government would hope to pay for it.
Now it looks like a new funding system for nation-building projects, including contributions from the private sector, could see the government bring a fast train plan to this year’s election.
According to The Australian, the Prime Minister is set to unveil his cities policy, which will include a proposal for changes to Australian infrastructure projects.
A fast train from Sydney’s CBD to Badgerys Creek — the site of the city’s second airport — is said to be the government’s first priority.
The western Sydney route is planned to be extended afterwards with links to regional centres like Goulburn, located between Sydney and Canberra.
A similar plan would link Melbourne to its regional neighbour Shepparton.
The links would lay the foundation for a long-term plan to build a fast train network eventually running the nation’s east coast from Melbourne to Brisbane.
Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t mind a train, but is he serious about building a really fast one?Source:News Limited
The Coalition favours a plan to build the fast rail lines in stages by a private consortium, The Australian reports.
Another option being floated is to introduce a “betterment tax” on property owners, though a Liberal MP has told the newspaper the politically unpopular proposal is unlikely to be pursued.
The new plan is the latest in a series of developments hinting towards building a fast train network for Australia.
Last month, the Prime Minister met with a mysterious company promising to “reshape Australia” with a fast train line linking Melbourne and Sydney.
Earlier in March, Mr Turnbull committed the government’s support for a fast rail link from Sydney’s CBD to Badgerys Creek.
The Opposition has been critical of the government’s lack of commitment to the project.
Labor’s transport spokesman Anthony Albanese criticised Mr Turnbull’s plan speaking on ABC radio this morning.
“You need a structure. It can’t just happen with a front page splash once a year,” he said.
Mr Albanese also took a swipe at Mr Turnbull who “was elected six months ago with a whole lot of selfies on trains and trams”, noting he “doesn’t seem to go on them anymore, but most importantly hasn’t funded them since he came to office”.
Last month the opposition transport spokesman labelled the pledge to build the Badgerys Creek fast train as “aspiration, not policy”.
“The government has had almost three years to deliver more than an aspiration,” he told news.com.au.
Greens MP Adam Bandt was similarly critical, tweeting that high speed rail was “the train that only runs in election years”.
London’s Heathrow Express fast train. Could we be seeing something similar in Australia?Source:Supplied
Mr Albanese, who already has a private member’s bill before parliament to set up the authority, will be reintroducing his legislation next week.
The fast train dream has been under consideration for decades, but little progress has been made.
A 2013 report commissioned by the Gillard Government projected a high-speed rail network connecting Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne would cost about $114 billion.
An independent report released the following year found a similar route could be built for $84 billion.
Speaking on Today, the Nine Network’s finance editor Ross Greenwood dismissed the Prime Minister’s proposal as electioneering.
“The only time we ever hear about high-speed rail link is before an election,” he said.
“The question is, is he serious or not?”
Australia is the only continent — with the exception of Antarctica — without fast trains.
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
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