Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Inga Williams

High-speed rail plan better than paid parental scheme: Rudd

SPENDING $114 billion to build a bullet train from Brisbane to Melbourne would be a better investment in Australia's future than the Coalition's paid parental leave scheme, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

A re-elected Labor government will legislate to protect a corridor for the 1750km route identified in a two-year HSR feasibility study and establish a High Speed Rail Authority to oversee the project's roll out.

The authority would be established within six months of the election and would initially receive $52 million over four years, although this money would not be enough to secure land along the route.

Mr Rudd told reporters in Sydney Labor would adopt the four recommendations contained in the High Speed Rail Advisory Group's final report released on Monday.

On top of protecting the corridor and establishing the authority, the other recommendations called for referring HSR to Infrastructure Australia for initial assessment and formally committing to HSR and settling arrangements with state and territory governments.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese established the advisory group after the release of the $20 million feasibility study in April.

The study found an east coast HSR link would need to be built in five stages and would be completed in 2058.

Mr Rudd used the release of the advisory's group's report to continue his attack on the Opposition's $5.5 billion per year PPL scheme.

"If we were to build this entire 1750km high-speed rail project from Brisbane to Melbourne by 2035 it would cost less than Mr Abbott's unaffordable, unfair paid parental leave scheme for the same period of time," Mr Rudd said.

"Put that into context. What is more necessary for Australia's future?"

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a Coalition government would not pursue HSR, saying the country had more immediate infrastructure priorities.

Mr Abbott rattled off a list of projects, including the Pacific and Bruce hwys, the Coalition would spend money on its first term.

"The government has been talking about spending $100 billion in 30 or 40 years time. I'd rather much spend money now to get better outcomes tomorrow rather than in 40 years time," Mr Abbott said.

The advisory group said work on the Sydney-Melbourne route could begin in 2022 - five years earlier than suggested in the feasibility study - and be running by 2035.

It also found HSR would have a "transformational effect for regions" and subsequently enjoyed widespread support among regional councils.

"Regional cities could experience increases in property prices, improved amenities and services, and increased social and economic mobility of residents in regional Australia," the report read.

"The benefits of high speed rail to regional areas are reflected in overseas experience, as consistently emphasised by international stakeholders during consultations."

The northern NSW towns of Casino, Grafton and Coffs Harbour would be among 12 regional stops along the route.

 

THREE-YEAR TIMETABLE

  • December 31, 2013: Intergovernmental arrangements settled
  • February 28, 2014: High Speed Rail Authority established
  • June 30, 2015: Corridor protection arrangements settled and Commonwealth legislation passed
  • June 30, 2016: Authority's initial work on market testing and business plan development completed
  • December 31, 2016: Authority's work on site suitability and analysis (including geological and land survey work) completed

*Based on the federal Government implementing the advisory's group's four recommendations



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