However, one has to remember that he floated this idea in the lead-up to a federal election. Historically, the HSR issue has been raised before in the lead-up to previous elections only to be quietly shelved and forgotten afterwards.
This time the new spin is Mr Turnbull’s proposal to use “value capture” to revive the old dream of building a high-speed rail line along the east coast linking the major cities – in other words, use the increased value of property near the line to finance the project.
Labor’s transport spokesman Anthony Albanese backed the concept while pointing out that Labor had released the definitive, $20 million study into a Melbourne-to-Brisbane link exactly three years earlier.
The rail link’s cost was estimated in the 2013 feasibility study at $114 billion – more than twice the cost of building Australia’s National Broadband Network.
Advocates for HSR say building a network would revitalise regional and country centres and boost their economies.
France, with a population of about 66 million and physically about 14 times smaller than Australia, has experienced a revitalisation of many of its regional centres as a result of building its TGV network.
Proponents of HSR rail say a network would have a similar effect here. However, Australia has neither the population nor the density of population to do the same. Although there would be benefits for centres such as Shepparton and Goulburn, would these benefits justify the cost? That is the question for HSR rail advocates to consider.
Realistically Australia will only get high-speed rail if the federal government backs it with hard cash; otherwise, it will remain a pipe dream. Therefore, if Mr Turnbull is serious he needs to put some money on the table – either that or stop raising hopes that we will join with rest of the world and embrace high-speed rail.
– TONY DUBOUDIN, editor