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An Australian government report recommends a Sydney-to-Canberra high speed rail link be up and running in 17 years, with a $23 billion price tag and a fare of $42 to $69 to compete with the airlines.
Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will release the High Speed Rail Advisory Group's findings on Monday, which takes the focus off a 30-year time frame for the overall Brisbane-to-Melbourne project.
Drawing on international experience, the report goes for smaller stages to build momentum and garner public support, including the first leg over 64 minutes from Sydney to Canberra.
The report's authors say a $23 billion first stage is far less intimidating than the overall $114 billion price tag for the Brisbane-Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne journey.
The report reinforces Civic as the ACT's preferred station, saying it would deliver $2 billion to $3 billion more user benefits compared with a station at Canberra Airport.
The southern highlands is preferred as a station location over Goulburn, serving a projected population of 60,000 in 2036, compared with Goulburn's 30,000 catchment.
Mr Albanese said he expected draft legislation by the end of this year to protect the high speed rail corridor.
The government has allocated $52 million to begin detailed planning work, to finalise rail alignment and station locations in consultation with the Victorian, NSW and ACT governments and to develop a business case, in consultation with Infrastructure Australia.
Mr Albanese said an authority would be established within six months to manage the project.
At this early stage there was no expectation jurisdictions like the ACT would stump up money, but would contribute planning and environmental expertise.
''Some people will be sceptical, that is understandable,'' Mr Albanese said of the report's release so close to the election.
''But this report says by preserving the corridors this will help make this project economically viable.''
The Infrastructure and Transport Minister said internationally, high speed rail construction costs were coming down and efficiencies were rising.
Companies from Japan, Spain, Italy and France were all interested in becoming involved in Australia's high speed rail, using their experience.
The report says opening up to a competitive global tender could bring costs down 20 per cent.
The Sydney-Canberra first stage is a win for the Canberra Business Council, which opposed an earlier proposal to build the Newcastle-to-Sydney leg first.
The report says overseas experience shows high speed rail brings development to regional areas, and land and property values increase.
It provides impetus for population growth from reduced commuting times to capital cities and improves access to health, education and jobs.
The report says the entire corridor should be preserved, without invoking any compulsory acquisition of land.
Costs to government of the land could be reduced by rezoning and planning restrictions to limit or change development controls.
Demand along the east coast would rise from 100 million trips a year currently to 264 million by 2050.
A workforce of 20,000 would be needed, far in excess of the national labour capacity in both skilled and unskilled resources.
Workforce planning would need to determine the level and type of labour needed to be brought into the country to supplement the local workforce.
This article first appeared on www.canberratimes.com.au
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