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KEVIN Rudd has sought to re-energise his election campaign today by announcing a fresh Labor commitment to a high-speed rail line along Australia's east coast.
The move follows the completion of a $20 million feasibility study, promised by Labor at the last election, which found a high-speed rail link between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne would cost $114 billion and take 45 years to complete.
Mr Rudd today unveiled the next step in Labor's preparations for the project, talking up the capacity of the project to drive jobs creation.
However, it was understood the Prime Minister was to stop short of making any definitive commitment to go ahead with what Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese called a “monumental endeavour”.
Mr Albanese tweeted earlier this morning: "Releasing High Speed Rail Advisory Group Report today shows a return of $2-10 for every $1 invested on Sydney-Melbourne."
The feasibility study, released in April, found protection of the rail route from development was the key priority to keep the project alive.
Labor has been on the hunt for big policy ideas, with the Prime Minister announcing earlier in the campaign he wanted to slash company tax in the Northern Territory by 10 per cent to turbo-charge development in Australia's north.
While Labor has offered equivocal support for fast rail to date, the Greens are strong supporters of the proposed development.
The rail link would decrease pressure on the nation's air network, taking up to 40 per cent of patronage from the airlines on major routes.
The announcement comes as Labor continues to hold out on the prospect of a second Sydney airport.
Mr Rudd said today a second airport for Sydney remained an “important priority”, but “the question is making sure you've got the location right”.
A trip between Sydney and Melbourne would take 2 hours and 44 minutes on the proposed fast rail line.
A team of seven consultants predicted the line could be completed by 2058 at the earliest, with an estimated patronage of 83.6 million passengers a year.
Their final report found that if the link was built, there would be a net national economic benefit of $2.30 for every dollar spent.
One of the most challenging elements of the project would be accessing Sydney's CBD, with a 67km tunnel found to be the only viable option.
“It's certainly a cracker of a tunnel, there's no doubt about that,” Mr Albanese said as he released the consultants' study.
Tony Abbott scoffed at Labor's renewed focus on the rail project.
“The government has been talking about spending hundreds of billions of dollars in 30 or 40 years time. I'd much rather spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow rather than 40 years' time,” he said.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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