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Scott Morrison announced in Canberra last night Australia's National Passenger Rail Transport Department would begin discussions with rail groups to develop a national passenger rail service strategy and service portfolio similar to Amtrak in the USA.
The plan according to Michael McCormick Australia's Federal Transport Minister includes allocating $2.5b to design and build new passenger rolling stock to operate trains between all national capital cities.
Mr. McCormack told journalists yesterday "The Coronavirus issues we face today highlight amongst other things the unhealthy reliance our country has on high carbon emssion forms of transport such as airlines like Qantas and Virgin. Australia now needs competitive independent and low emission transport modes for passengers which are more environmentally friendly."
Mr McCormack added "Australian's need reliable choices for transport in the new millennium and passenger rail as in other countries is the answer. "
The proposal will provide rail passenger services between key city pairs which include Brisbane/Sydney, Sydney/Canberra, Sydney/Melbourne. Also included are Melbourne/Adelaide, Melbourne/Mildura, Adelaide/Perth, Adelaide/Whyalla. When asked why Whyalla South Australia was included Mr. McCormack suggested South Australia could not be trusted to properly fund and run a rail passenger service over 15kms in length.
The proposal also includes $17b over 10 years to uplift interstate rail track standards which will be undertaken by ARTC allowing passenger train running at up to 160km/h on most sections. Included in the design is electrification of the interstate network to european rail standards. "Power for the trains will come from renewable energy including the many wind farms along the interstate network" McCormack said.
Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack have recently come under increased criticism by environmental groups and many in the community over requests from private airline companies wanting billions in handouts during the government imposed shutdowns. Many in the community believe longer distance and faster rail passenger services including HSR between Sydney and Melbourne utilising renewable energy is a more responsible approach to longer term service delivery. "It is time to put the environment first. Its the future in transport" Morrison said.
When asked would the government provide airlines with $billions of taxpayer dollars Morrison replied "Qantas and Virgin keep the Liberal Party coffers overflowing with political donations, why would we want to do something to stop that? In any case Mr. Joyce needs no assistance in taking Qantas on board service lower than it already is."
Morrison went on to say "we know we have ignored the national rail network for years and unfortunately rail companies just don’t provide enough political donations to make it work for us. The national passenger rail system will be the first step in a much needed direction for the future of the country."
Peter Soot from the Carbon Reduction Coalition said "airline services in Europe have been in decline for the past 10 years due to the delivery of better more comfortable, cleaner, low carbon emission, and more reliable passenger rail services. We believe it is time to implement a national passenger rail network delivered by the government. The time is now."
When asked the Australian Railway Alliance welcomed the announcement saying "this was a long time coming and people deserved a viable and well run and managed national passenger rail service. rail has been ignored here but has boomed in Europe and on other parts of the globe. Even Africa has faster trains than we do here in Australia."
Scott Morrison assured journalists the same people responsible for the NBN delivery fiasco would not be involved in designing and delivering the national passenger rail services. Alan Joyce declined to comment.
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