Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese
Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese

Australia will struggle without high speed rail: Albanese

FEDERAL Transport Minister Anthony Albanese believes Australia will eventually get a high speed rail link, arguing it will be essential to help cope with a boom in east coast travel over the next five decades.

Mr Albanese released a second and final report on Thursday containing the results of a three-year, $20 million feasibility study into building a HSR line from Brisbane to Melbourne.

The report, which is not the first to deal with the HSR concept, was widely welcomed by a number of groups including Engineers Australia.

Building the 1748km line, which would have stops in each of the four east coast capital cities as well as 12 regional stations, would happen in five stages at a cost $114 billion and would not be complete until 2053 at the earliest.

Once operational the electric train, which could travel at speeds of up to 350km/h, would have the capacity to carry 84 million passengers per year.

Mr Albanese, who supports the concept of an electric bullet train, said the report was not Labor policy and had been released to generate debate.

"I believe high speed rail will happen in Australia. I think that we need to make sure we get the facts out there," Mr Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

He said the report did not "gild the lily" in terms of the significant challenges standing in the way of a HSR project.

But he said without it Australia would struggle to cope with increased travel demands on the east coast, which the report indicated would more than double between now and 2065 to 355 million trips per year.

"This will place enormous pressure on our transport infrastructure. Without high speed rail this will have to be met entirely by existing modes," he said.

"The report is a sobering reminder that with or without high speed rail, moving people up and down the east coast is going to become more and more of a challenge."

A HSR network would not remove the need for a second Sydney airport, Mr Albanese said.

He also revealed the make-up of the seven-member HSR advisory group, which will include former deputy prime minister and train aficionado Tim Fischer.

If a decision was made to proceed with a HSR link the states would have an important role to play, particularly in route preservation, with Mr Albanese confirming the issue would be on the agenda at the Standing Committee on Transport and Infrastructure next month.

Public consultation is open until June 30.Opposition transport spokesman Warren Truss said he was reserving his judgment until he had examined the report's cost-benefit analysis.

"It's certainly a great dream that people have been thinking about for a very long time but the cost of $114 billion estimated at this stage is obviously a huge barrier," Mr Truss told ABC radio.

"The country has got $300 billion in gross debt and to find that extra money will obviously be a challenge."

He said HSR's "time has come".

"There should be money in this year's Federal Budget for a dedicated High Speed Rail Authority to implement the project," Mr Bandt said.

"The Greens are worried that Labor is putting high speed rail on the slow track."

 

COST BREAKDOWN

How much each stage would cost:

  • Stage one: Sydney to Canberra - $23 billion
  • Stage two: Canberra to Melbourne - $26.9 billion
  • Stage three: Newcastle to Sydney: $18.9 billion
  • Stage four: Brisbane to the Gold Coast - $11 billion
  • Stage five: Gold Coast to Newcastle - $34.3 billion


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