Australia could soon have some form of high-speed rail network connecting capital cities on the East coast – at the very least we’ll have a dedicated agency for thinking about laying some extra tracks for fast trains.
Transport Minister Catherine King introduced a bill to parliament on Thursday to create the High-Speed Rail Authority which, in her words, will be an “independent body to advise on, plan and develop the high-speed rail system in Australia”.
The High-Speed Rail Authority would be tasked with all the policy, planning, and consulting work required to develop a network of fast trains, and assuming the relevant states and territories are all aboard, will oversee the construction or extension railways.
Its first priority will be to speed up the trek between Sydney and Newcastle.
“A high-speed rail network will revolutionise interstate travel in Australia, significantly reducing travel time to move between capital cities compared to other modes of travel,” King said in her speech introducing the bill.
“Imagine a high-speed train connecting capital cities from Melbourne, to Canberra, to Sydney, to Brisbane, all across our regional centres, through our semi-urban populations, straight to our international hubs with trips taking as little as three hours.
“We will no longer be behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to land infrastructure and technology.”
Japan built its first high-speed rail back in 1964, and there have since been lines built with speeds over 200 km/h – and in some cases over 300 km/h – in Europe, China, and the US.
Australia’s own high-speed rail ambitious have never quite come to fruition.
Indeed, the Gillard government began research on fast trains which proposed a route connecting the Eastern capital cities with an estimated travel time of less than three hours from Brisbane or Melbourne to Sydney at a cost of $114 billion.
A pair of studies into high-speed rail culminated in the creation of a High Speed Rail Advisory Group which the Abbott government binned in the name of cost cutting within three months of forming government in 2013.
Shortly after, a certain plucky Shadow Transport Minister named Anthony Albanese introduced an ultimately doomed private member’s bill to establish, of all things, a High Speed Rail Planning Authority.
“High-speed rail is about vision, it is about transforming our regions, it is about reducing our emissions, and it is about effectively being able to travel from our capital cities down the east coast,” Albanese said back in 2013.
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