Great gain with fast train

High-speed rail would provide “enormous potential” for the Hunter Region, Charlton MP Pat Conroy said.
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Mr Conroy said land around a high-speed rail corridor would become “much more valuable”.

He said governments should seek to “capture some of that value to help pay for the rail”.

“That’s what they do around the world,” he said.

Combined with the “best possible NBN [broadband network]”, a fast train would “make the Huntera global region”.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday on a $24 billion plan for a high-speed rail network that would allow travel from Newcastle to Sydney in less than an hour.

Centurion Group, a company backed by China’s state railways, was behind this latest fast-train push.

Mr Conroy said there was no shortage of interest in the concept.

“When we [Labor] were in government, we were talking to consortiums from Japan and China who were very interested in investing in it,” he said.

“In fact, I was having lunch with a large investment bank only late last year and they were very interested in options around it.”

In October last year, Labor’s infrastructure and transport spokesman Anthony Albanese revived calls for “Australia to advance high-speed rail”.

“A line down the east coast between Brisbane and Melbourne, via Sydney and Canberra, would revolutionise interstate travel,” Mr Albanese said.

The former Labor government spent $20 million to determine the viability of an east coast rail network.

This study, released in 2013, founda fast train from Newcastle to Sydney would cost $18.9 billion and have ajourney time of39 minutes.

It said the service could become operational in 30 years and carry up to 4.75 million passengers between the two areas by 2065.

Labor recommended that the plan proceed and allocated $50 million to establish a formal planning authority to progress the project,but the Abbott government cut the funding.

Mr Albanese had expressed hope that the Turnbull government would take a fresh look at the plan.

He reintroduced to Parliament a private member’s bill to establish a High-Speed Rail Planning Authority.

Mr Conroy said securing a rail corridor for the project would be difficult, but “it’s not impossible”.

“The engineering solution could be a lot of tunnels.

“We’ve got to make sure it works, but we need a government that has a vision and commitment to it.”

He said the planning had to be done first, adding “we’re building Badgerys Creek airport now becausethe Hawke governmentpreserved the land in the 1980s”.

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