Hi-tech rail promises insane speed
Promises of fast trains and elections go together like horses and carriages. So it was little surprise when Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a re-elected Coalition government would potentially spend billions on high-speed rail links.
First cab, or rather train, off the ranks would be a $2 billion fast link between Melbourne and Geelong. At 200km/h this would speed commuters along the 75km between Victoria's first and second cities in just 35 minutes, a cut to the current hour-long journey.
"This is all part of our plan to manage population growth … to take the pressure off our big cities like Melbourne and make our regional cities like Geelong even more attractive places to live and work," the Prime Minister told the Herald Sun.
"As our population grows, fast rail networks are crucial to easing the congestion pressures in our cities and shaping Australia's future."
The Melbourne-to-Geelong link is estimated to cost about $4 billion, with the government looking to the Victorian Government to make up the shortfall.
Asked at a press conference on Friday if $4bn was really enough for the line, Mr Morrison said: "If the costs are greater than that, then we'll have to address that at that time. But the train never leaves the station unless people get on board and it starts moving".
Mr Morrison said he hoped the state and federal governments could "come together" on the project like that have done on the proposed multi-billion dollar Melbourne Airport rail link.
That's not looking positive, however, with Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan telling the ABC the rail link was a "pre-election thought bubble", and if Canberra was "fair dinkum" about improving links between the two cities, it would invest in current projects to speed up journey times.
The Victorian project is one of five new high-speed rail business cases to be investigated at a cost of $40 million.
Mr Morrison has also flagged a link form Brisbane to the Gold Coast. Just like in Victoria, this could see end-to-end journey times of 35 minutes. High speed lines between Wollongong, Newcastle and Sydney have also been mentioned as well as from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane.
Earlier this week, Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said the Coalition wasn't ambitious enough. Mr Albanese has been a long-term proponent of faster rail services.
He said the Coalition had ignored the 2013 Labor government blueprint for high-speed rail connecting Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.
In 2013, the former federal Labor government published a detailed feasibility study that found a line between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra would produce $2 of public benefit for every $1 invested.
An independent panel then recommended the creation of a high-speed rail authority to advance the project and begin acquisition of the corridor, but the work was shelved.
"As the government scrambles for solutions to traffic congestion exacerbated by its own neglect and lack of infrastructure investment, it pretends it is acting by periodically re-announcing its 'faster rail' proposal," Mr Albanese said.
"Genuine high-speed rail down Australia's east coast would allow people to move between capital cities in as little as three hours at speeds of up to 350 kilometres per hour."